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Indonesia warns of large fines for refusing COVID-19 vaccine in first world

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The Indonesian capital Jakarta is threatening residents with fines of up to 5 million rupees ($ 450) for refusing COVID-19 vaccines, an extremely harsh punishment aimed at ensuring compliance with a new regulation making mandatory strikes.

Jakarta Deputy Governor Ahmad Riza Patria said city authorities were simply following the rules and such sanctions were a last resort in Jakarta, which accounts for about a quarter of the archipelago nation’s more than 1.2 million coronavirus infections.

“If you refuse, there are two things, social assistance will not be provided, [and a] well, “Mr Riza told reporters, in what appears to be a world first in making mandatory strikes.

Indonesia is battling one of Asia’s largest and most stubborn coronavirus epidemics and aims to inoculate 181.5 million of its 270 million population within 15 months under a vaccination program that began last month.

Nearly 34,000 Indonesians are known to have died from the virus.

Indonesia announced a presidential decree earlier this month stating that anyone who refuses vaccines could be denied social assistance or government services or face a fine.

The sentence will be determined by regional health agencies or local governments.

A group of people with white PPE with shields and masks and covered heads put their hands up.
Indonesia aims to vaccinate 181.5 million of its 270 million population within 15 months.(Reuters: Ulfiana Dinar)

“Sanctions are our latest attempt to encourage people’s participation,” said Health Ministry official Nadia Tarmizi.

The new regulation follows months of public skepticism and persistent doubts about whether coronavirus vaccines are safe, effective and halal, or permissible by Islamic beliefs.

Public health experts said public concerns about the vaccine could be a stumbling block, while health agencies in West Java, Indonesia’s most populous province and West Nusa Tenggara said they had no plans to implement the sanctions.

A December poll by surveyor Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting showed that only 37 percent of 1,202 respondents were willing to be vaccinated, 40 percent were undecided and 17 percent would refuse.

Usman Hamid, a director at Amnesty International Indonesia, said the implementation of vaccinations was not the answer.

“A blanket mandate on vaccination, especially one that includes criminal convictions, is a clear violation of human rights,” Mr Hamid said.

Reuters

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