Indonesia and COVID-19: Government Issues Regulation on Limiting Social Interactions

Fahrul S. YusufPartner, SSEK Legal Consultants

By Ridzki Putra Ramadhan

As part of the national effort to battle the spread of the coronavirus in the country, the Government of Indonesia (“GOI”) has issued Government Regulation No. 21 of 2020 on the Limitation of Large-Scale Social Interactions to Expedite Countermeasures Against COVID-19 (March 31, 2020) (“GR 21/2020”). GR 21/2020 is an implementing regulation for Law No. 6 of 2018 on Health Quarantine (the “HQ Law”).

Under the HQ Law, health quarantine is defined as an effort to prevent or curb the spread of a disease and/or public health risk factor that has the potential to cause a public health emergency. The HQ Law defines a public health emergency as an extraordinary public health event as indicated by the spread across regions or countries of infectious disease and/or events caused by nuclear radiation, biological pollution, chemical contamination, bioterrorism or food contamination.

COVID-19 Declared a Public Health Emergency

On the same date it issued GR 21/2020, the GOI designated COVID-19 a public health emergency by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 11 of 2020 on the Stipulation of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) as a Public Health Emergency (“Decree 11/2020”). Decree 11/2020 recognizes COVID-19 as a public health emergency as defined by the HQ Law, empowering the GOI to introduce health quarantine measures as set out in the HQ Law to fight the spread of COVID-19 in Indonesia. These quarantine measures include home quarantine, regional quarantine, hospital quarantine, and limits on large-scale social interactions.

While the HQ Law discusses the general provisions for the implementation of health quarantines in the event of a public health emergency, GR 21/2020 focuses solely on limitations on large-scale social interactions, particularly as a countermeasure to the spread of COVID-19.

Such limitations are a method of health quarantine by way of temporarily closing certain public places to prevent the spread of an infectious disease stipulated as a public health emergency by the GOI. The implementation of such limitations includes at least the following:

  1. temporary closure of schools and places of work;
  2. limitations on religious activities; and/or
  3. limitations on activities in public places or facilities.

Pursuant to GR 21/2020, the enforcement of such limitations on large-scale social interactions can be initiated by the Minister of Health (“Minister”) or by a governor/regent/mayor. In the case of the latter, the governor/regent/mayor would need to submit a recommendation to the Minister, who would then consider such recommendation and determine whether to enforce the requested limitations in a certain region.

The implementation of such large-scale social distancing efforts must be based on various considerations as set out in Article 2 paragraph (2) of GR 21/2020, including epidemiology, scale of threat, resources, and political, economic, social, cultural, defense and security considerations.

Further, under Article 3 of GR 21/2020, for limitations on large-scale social interactions to be implemented, the following conditions must be fulfilled:

  1. the number of infections and/or the death toll from the disease have increased and spread significantly and quickly to several regions;
  2. there exists an epidemiologic link with a similar case in another region or country.

As of the date of this article, we are not aware of any decree or stipulation by the Minister that enforces any limitations on large-scale social interactions in any region in the country. In practice, however, several regional governments, including those in DKI Jakarta and West Java, have begun to implement such limitations in their own regions.

Given that GOI has stipulated COVID-19 a public health emergency and issued an implementing regulation specifically for the exercise of large-scale social distancing efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it would appear that it is possibly preparing itself, by validating its authority pursuant to the HQ Law, to introduce health quarantines to handle the crisis.

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