Several McDonald’s outlets in Indonesia were forced to close this week after a special “BTS Meal,” named for the wildly popular Korean boy band, drew crowds of delivery drivers that violated safe distancing measures, the police said.
On Wednesday, the first day that the limited edition meal was available, a rush of orders was placed — but because of Covid-19, most were made online. That resulted in flocks of motorcycle delivery drivers showing up at outlets across Indonesia, with most of the restaurants unprepared to manage the turnout.
In Jakarta, the capital, the police said on Wednesday that they had temporarily closed 32 McDonald’s outlets “because they were found to have violated health protocols,” including limiting capacity to 50 percent and avoiding crowds.
The BTS Meal consists of nine chicken nuggets, two sauces, medium fries and a drink, and comes in a box with a purple logo. Introduced in nearly 50 other countries, it is available in Indonesia until next month.
But because nearly anything related to BTS provokes a frenzy, there have been concerns that the introduction of the meal could draw crowds in some Asian countries where coronavirus cases have risen recently and where vaccination levels remain relatively low. The meal’s rollout in Singapore was delayed last month after the government tightened distancing rules, including a ban on dining in restaurants.
Indonesia, which has one of the highest coronavirus caseloads in Asia, has seen a surge of infections in recent weeks as more people gathered and traveled during Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. New daily cases have risen 26 percent over the last two weeks, and only 4 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database.
Indonesian fans of the Korean band have acknowledged that delivery drivers faced long lines and possible exposure to the coronavirus to bring them their BTS Meal. Online message groups have called on customers to reward drivers with handsome tips. On Kitabisa, a crowdfunding site, several initiatives are raising money for drivers and their families.
One user named Vanessa Egas asked for donations to reach a target of 25 million rupiah, about $1,750, to “repay the kindness of our brother drivers who stood in line for hours to deliver the BTS Meal.” By Friday, she had surpassed that goal and begun to disburse the funds, according to the website.
In other developments from around the globe:
The Philippines has begun loosening restrictions on movements across the capital, Manila, and nearby provinces, allowing a range of activities to restart, the government said on Friday. Harry Roque, spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte, announced that indoor noncontact sports venues, such as gyms, fitness studios, skating rinks and racket sport facilities, would be allowed to reopen at about 30 percent of their capacity. Historical sites and museums would also be allowed to resume operations at limited capacity, he said, but guided tours would remain prohibited. He added that older adults who had been fully vaccinated would be allowed to move more freely, with proof of inoculation.
Jason Gutierrez contributed reporting.