Indonesian President Joko Widodo has called for the mandatory wearing of face masks for the next two weeks to help curb Covid-19 as the number of cases continues to rise in the world’s most populous Muslim country.
He told Vice President Ma’ruf Amin and several ministers at a meeting on Aug. 3 to launch a campaign to ensure people wore masks.
“Society has become more worried about Covid-19 over the past few weeks,” Widodo told the meeting at the presidential palace.
Concern has been mounting about the rising number of cases and the reluctance by many to follow social distancing protocols.
As of Aug. 4, Indonesia had recorded 115,056 Covid-19 cases and 5,388 deaths.
According to Widodo, Indonesia’s coronavirus death rate is 0.8 percent higher than the global one.
“I want us to focus on health protocols and behavior change in society,” he told the meeting.
Responding to the president’s comments, Home Affairs Minister Muhammad Tito Karnavian called on local governments to order the wearing of face masks.
“I have encouraged local leaders to make wearing face masks mandatory and punish those who do wear them. Some regions have already issued such regulations,” he told reporters.
He said that his ministry was committed to promoting so-called “Covid-19 Safe Villages” and that one of its programs includes the mass distribution of face masks.
“We’re building Covid-19 defense bases in villages and hamlets,” he said.
Muliawan Margadana, from the Catholic Network Against Covid-19 (JKMC), said the government must introduce stricter measures to deal with Covid-19.
“Face masks are a key factor in curbing the spread of Covid-19,” he told UCA News, adding that punishments are necessary to make sure people wear them.
He called for village and religious leaders to be involved in the campaign too. “If not, it would be useless,” he said.