by Nurul Fitri Ramadhani
JAKARTA, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- Natalia Masinambow departed on Tuesday from Jakarta for her hometown in Manado, North Sulawesi province of Indonesia, to spend Christmas and New Year holidays with her two brothers.
She also plans to visit three graves of her parents and grandmother, who died of COVID-19 last year.
"Now the regulation is no longer as strict as it was before, so I will go home no matter it will take," she said.
Despite threats by the Omicron COVID-19 variant, Indonesia is expected to see more people going homewards for year-end holidays than last year due to the loosened regulations on public activity restrictions and the high vaccination rate.
Like Masinambow, 28-year-old Juan Soesanto is ready to spend the Christmas holidays with his big family in Surabaya, East Java province.
He arrived on Dec. 11, taking a sudden and early flight right after the new regulation was announced to avoid possible changes in travel restrictions.
As of Tuesday, the Indonesian government still sticks to its plan to impose a more relaxed restriction policy from Dec. 24 to Jan. 2, 2022.
Fully-vaccinated people can travel as long as they can show negative antigen test results, but those who have only received their first doses are required to show negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction test results.
Unvaccinated people are still barred from traveling.
Under the new regulation, restaurants and malls will be allowed to welcome more visitors and operate longer hours, but massive New Year's celebrations, parades and large gatherings remain prohibited.
The decision to implement the relatively loose regulation was made after Indonesia's COVID-19 situation has been under control and the vaccination rate is relatively high, said Coordinating Minister for Maritime and Investment Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, who leads the government's COVID-19 response team for Java and Bali.
As of Tuesday, more than 152 million people in Indonesia have received their first dose of vaccines, while over 107 million have taken their second dose. The country has so far administered more than 261 million doses including the booster jabs.
Both Masinambow and Soesanto are confident that family reunions would be safe because they are fully vaccinated with China's Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine.
"I did not want to spend Christmas alone like last year. I am confident everything will be fine as I have been fully-vaccinated," Soesanto said.
Indonesians usually go back to their hometowns to gather with families and perform religious rituals together at the year-end.
A total of 19.9 million people across the country would travel homewards. Around 4.4 million are from the capital Jakarta and its satellite cities, according to a survey conducted by the Transportation Ministry and released earlier this month.
"Even if the government suddenly imposes stricter restrictions, people would still tend to travel, either for going (to their) hometowns or for vacations," the Transportation Ministry spokesperson Adita Irawati said in a recent statement.
Euphoria in celebrating Christmas and the New Year has been seen despite the recent discovery of cases with the Omicron variant.
Responding to the Omicron cases, the government has decided to close borders for arrivals from the United States, Norway and Denmark.
Minister Pandjaitan said all relative regulations could change anytime depending on the development of the COVID-19 situation.
"We'll do a weekly evaluation. However we should not panic and worry because we have already made preparations well," Pandjaitan told a press conference on Monday. Enditem