"There will be no Mudik in 2021," Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy says. Many head to hometowns in time, known as Mudik, for celebrations at the end of Islam's holy fasting month.

A woman (R) receives vaccine for the coronavirus as military personnel and their families are offered the vaccine at an army camp in Surabaya on March 26, 2021.
A woman (R) receives vaccine for the coronavirus as military personnel and their families are offered the vaccine at an army camp in Surabaya on March 26, 2021. (AFP)

Muslim majority Indonesia has banned an annual exodus that sees millions travel across the vast nation to mark the end of Ramadan over fears of a surge in Covid-19 infections.

"There will be no Mudik in 2021," Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy said in a statement on Friday, citing fears of spreading the virus and inoculation efforts.

But he added that some may get exemptions for "urgent travel," without elaborating.

Travellers pack into airports, train stations, and ports across the nearly 5,000-km long archipelago in a mass migration, known as Mudik, that is similar to China's Lunar New Year holiday or Christmas.

One of the worst-hit nations in Asia

Many head to hometowns in time for celebrations at the end of Islam's holy fasting month, a festival known as Eid al Fitr.

Ramadan ends in mid-May this year.

The government said it was banning the exodus as Indonesia, one of the worst-hit nations in Asia, rolls out a massive inoculation campaign.

The country earlier announced an ambitious target to vaccinate more than 181 million of its nearly 270 million people within a year.

Loopholes in rules

Fearing a public health disaster, the government last year slapped a ban on domestic sea and air travel and set up roadblocks to stop the cross-country movement.

But many took advantage of loopholes in the rules, as well as relying on people smugglers and bogus travel documents, to get around the ban.

Indonesia has officially reported nearly 1.5 million infections and more than 40,000 deaths.

But low testing rates mean the crisis is believed to be much more severe than those figures suggest.

Source: AFP