Passengers wearing face masks amid the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus wait to board a train at a station in Surabaya, Indonesia, on March 15. (Photo: Juni Kriswanto/AFP)
Indonesia has closed schools and universities in capital Jakarta and in many provinces across the country for at least the next two weeks following a spike in the number of people infected with the coronavirus, including a cabinet minister.
President Joko Widodo issued the closure order on March 15 and instructed local governments to increase efforts to try and stem the spread of the virus.
The president also called on public servants to work from home.
"I ask all governors, regents, and mayors to continue to monitor their areas closely and consult with medical experts in examining each situation," President Widodo said. "It's time we work from home, learn from home, worship at home."
Several governors, including those in Jakarta, West Java and Central Java, have instructed some schools to adopt distance learning for the time being.
Jakarta governor Anies Rasyied Baswedan was the first to close all schools to limit “population mobility” to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Baswedan also called on informal learning institutions, such as training and tutoring centers, to suspend classes and move to distance learning.
Franciscan Father Vinsensius Darmin Mbula, chairman of the National Council of Catholic Education, said he had asked Catholic schools to follow the government's directive.
"It’s very important for schools in cities to follow the directive, while schools in remote areas are urged to remain vigilant," he told UCA News.
"Allowing children to learn from home is an opportunity to establish close cooperation between schools and parents.”
Roy Santoso Yusuf, a layman and chairman of the Permata Bunda Foundation that oversees several schools in Depok and Bogor in West Java, said preparations to establish online classes began last week. "We are looking to begin online lessons on March 17," he said.
Similar arrangements were being adopted by universities, including Atma Jaya Catholic University in Jakarta and the University of Indonesia. Online lectures began on March 16 and replaced midterm exams scheduled for March 23 to April 3 with home-based tests.
Churches in Jakarta were still conducting Masses on March 15 but attendances were low.
Many churches, including Jakarta Cathedral, were sprayed with disinfectant on March 14.
As of March 15, Covid-19 cases in Indonesia had reached 117, a jump of 87 since March 13, with five deaths.
One of the confirmed cases was Transport Minister Budi Karya Sumadi, who is being treated at Gatot Soebroto Army Hospital in Jakarta.
President Widodo has instructed 12 other ministers, known to have been in close contact with Sumadi, to undergo medical tests.