Indonesian Gov’t Arms Itself with Powers to Impose Local Lockdowns
1. New Lockdown Powers
The Indonesian government has taken a series of concerted steps recently to establish a solid legal framework for the imposition of what are likely to be partial or total lockdowns at the local level to contain the spread of Covid-19.
The first of these steps was the declaration of Covid-19 as a public health emergency through the issuance of Presidential Decree No. 11 of 2020 (“PD 11”) on 31 March 2020. Under the Health Quarantine Law, the declaration arms the central government with emergency powers to impose measures such as large-scale social restrictions (“LSSR”) and area quarantine orders to counter the spread of the pandemic. Simultaneously with the promulgation of PD 11, Government Regulation No. 21 of 2020 (“GR 21”) was issued to clarify the procedures and requirements for the imposition of LSSR on local administrative areas by the central government.
These two instruments were quickly followed on 3 April 2020 by Minister of Health Regulation No. 9 of 2020, which sets out detailed guidelines governing the imposition of LSSR by the central government (“MOH Guidelines”).
Then, on 7 April 2020, the Minister of Health issued a decree officially declaring Jakarta as subject to LSSR, making it the first local administrative area in the country to be so designated. Meanwhile, it is widely reported in the media that similar declarations are expected to be made for a number of other key cities in the near future.
2. Large-scale Social Restrictions: What Are They?
The term “large-scale social restrictions” (pembatasan sosial berskala besar) is taken from the Health Quarantine Law, which defines them as “restrictions on certain activities of the populace in an area that is suspected of being infected and/or contaminated so as to prevent the spread of the infection or contamination.”
While this definition may sound relatively innocuous, it is what is in the bottle rather than on the label that is important. If we accept that a “lockdown” means restricting people’s right to travel to and/or from a particular area, then a careful reading of GR 21/2020 and the MOH Guidelines reveals that what they are really concerned with is the imposition of partial or general lockdowns at the provincial, regency (county) and/or municipal levels. Indeed, it is widely reported in the media that West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil plans to avail of the anticipated declaration of LSSR status in certain parts of the province to introduce nighttime curfews.
The scope of LSSR is set out in Article 13 MOH Guidelines, which envisages the imposition of the following restrictions:
Although restrictions on people’s freedom of movement are not directly referred to in Article 13 MOH Guidelines, Article 2(1) of GR 21 (a higher regulation) expressly permits such restrictions to be imposed as part of LSSR.
Further, a circular issued by the Ministry of Communications’ Greater Jakarta Transportation Management Agency hints at the possible imposition of a wide-ranging lockdown in the national capital and its satellite cities. The circular (No. SE.5 BPTJ of 2020 on Restrictions on Transportation to Reduce Movements of People to and from Greater Jakarta, dated 1 April 2020), envisages a raft of restrictions on freedom of movement, including preventing people from “making journeys into and/or out of Greater Jakarta” by sealing off access to toll roads/expressways, national roads and provincial roads leading into and out of the region.
3. Who Can Impose Large-scale Social Restrictions?
While the power to declare an area subject to LSSR is vested exclusively in the Minister of Health, he may only do so based on an application from a provincial governor, regent (bupati) or mayor, or directly from the Head of the Covid-19 Task Force. In addition, a recommendation from a special team established by the Minister is required and certain prescribed preconditions must be satisfied before a declaration is issued. In the case of an application by a local government, the views of the Head of the Covid-19 Taskforce should also be taken into consideration by the Minister.
4. ABNR Commentary
Like other nations, Indonesia has faced a profound dilemma in deciding how to respond to Covid-19: Should it (a) attempt to break the transmission chain by imposing a strictly enforced general lockdown, which could help save lives but at the possible price of economic ruin; or (b) should it essentially allow the virus to run its course (while applying relatively mild measures to mitigate its impact) in the hope that this will help protect the country’s economic foundations?
From the outset of the Covid-19 crisis here, the government has insisted that lockdowns, whether partial or total, national or local, are neither appropriate nor practical in the Indonesian context. In arriving at this stance, it was no doubt influenced by not only financial / revenue considerations but also the realities of life on Java island and in other heavily populated parts of the country, where so many people live in crowded conditions or depend for a living on the informal sector, which would be virtually wiped out by a strictly enforced general lockdown.
However, with economically important provinces like Jakarta, West Java and Central Java insisting on the introduction of at least partial lockdowns, it seems that the new regulations discussed above may herald a significant shift in the government’s stance.
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Mr. Emir Nurmansyah (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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 Presidential Decree No. 11 of 2020 on Declaration of Covid-19 Public Health Emergency (Keputusan Presiden Nomor 11 Tahun 2020 tentang Penetapan Kedaruratan Kesehatan Masyarakat Covid-19)
 Law No. 6 of 2018 on Health Quarantine (Undang-Undang Nomor 6 Tahun 2018 tentang Kekarantinaan Kesehatan)
 Government Regulation No. 21 of 2020 on Large-scale Social Distancing to Accelerate the Response to Covid-19 (Peraturan Pemerintah Nomor 21 Tahun 2020 tentang Pembatasan Sosial Berskala Besar dalam rangka Percepatan Penanganan Covid-19).
 Peraturan Menteri Kesehatan No. 9/2020 tentang Pedoman Pembatasan Sosial Berskala Besar
 Minister of Health Decree No. HK.01.07/Menkes/239/2020 (Keputusan Menteri Kesehatan No. HK.01.07/Menkes/239/2020)
This edition of ABNR News and the contents hereof are intended solely to provide a general overview, for informational purposes, of selected recent developments in Indonesian law. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Accordingly, ABNR accepts no liability of any kind in respect of any statement, opinion, view, error, or omission that may be contained herein. In all circumstances, you are strongly advised to consult a licensed Indonesian legal practitioner before taking any action that could adversely affect your rights and obligations under Indonesian law.