Indonesia has ordered the deployment of hundreds of thousands of troops and police officers to enforce rules on wearing face masks and physical distancing, as the world’s fourth-most populous nation prepares to reopen its economy after a coronavirus lockdown.
Armed forces chief Air Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto said on Tuesday about 340,000 officers would be deployed in four provinces – Jakarta, West Java, West Sumatra and Gorontalo – to ensure the country’s safe transition to the “new normal”.
The security personnel have been tasked with ensuring the public observe health guidelines prescribed by the government as cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, have continued to rise.
“They will be present in public places where people converge, including shopping malls, markets and tourist resorts,” Tjahjanto told reporters.
“We will monitor people to ensure people are wearing masks, and are also maintaining a safe distance from others,” he said. “What we want is that people can do their activities, and at the same time stay safe from COVID-19.”
Indonesia, home to almost 270 million people, has so far recorded nearly 23,000 confirmed coronavirus infections and 1,391 related deaths.
Under the new rules, the capacity of shopping centres and supermarkets will be halved in terms of customers permitted.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo said the measures would help protect people’s health and the economy.
“We want to remain productive while still safe from COVID-19,” he said, after inspecting a shopping centre in the city of Bekasi. “In the new normal, the military and police will watch crowds to ensure people become more disciplined.”
Widodo said he hoped that more stringent enforcement of physical distancing measures could lead to the flattening of the curve.
“The rate of transmission [of COVID-19] is declining in some provinces and we hope that it will continue with the massive deployment of soldiers and police on the ground,” he said.
Authorities have come under fire from public health experts since March for its belated response to the health crisis, while in recent weeks a string of regulatory backflips around social curbs, work and travel has resulted in widespread confusion.
As local governments prepare to ease social restrictions in the coming week, the government also announced on Tuesday its new “United Against COVID” mobile app, which allows users to identify areas of high coronavirus risk.