The meal debuted locally on Wednesday, and demand quickly overwhelmed stores. Most Indonesian customers had placed their orders online due to the pandemic, leading to huge crowds of motorcycle-taxi deliverymen left queuing for hours inside and outside stores — and raising concerns that the circumstances could lead to a super-spreader event.
Jakarta police have ordered 32 McDonald’s stores to temporarily close for “violating health protocols” by failing to limit capacity to 50% and enforce social-distancing measures.
A police spokesman told the local press that authorities have even asked that the BTS meal be temporarily put on hold altogether.
Other cities have had to close McDonald’s stores as well. Fajar Purwoto, the public order agency head for the central Javan port city of Semarang, explained to AFP that the municipality had temporarily shuttered four of its six McDonald’s for a few days.
“I don’t want Semarang to be in the COVID-19 red zone again,” he said.
Indonesia is one of the Asian countries hardest hit by the virus. New daily cases have gone up 26% in the last two weeks, and only 4% of Indonesians are fully vaccinated, according to data from the New York Times.
The coveted BTS meal includes nuggets, fries, a drink and limited-edition sweet chili and cajun sauces in purple packaging emblazoned with the band’s logo.
Anticipating that a purchasing frenzy would occur once the meals became available, Indonesian fans encouraged each other to tip drivers well and donate funds to give back to those braving potential COVID-19 exposure to bring them their nuggets.
One fundraising campaign run by the group BTS ARMY Indonesia has raised over $18,000 so far. ARMY is a global term used to refer to the band’s fans.
“It’s great when we can share our happiness with others. This time, let’s share it with the [delivery] drivers,” its main page said in Indonesian. “They will be our heroes ordering the BTS meal… dedicating their time to waiting and delivering the special food directly to each ARMY’s home.
“By sharing, this BTS anniversary and BTS meal celebration will not just make us happy, but also make our fan activities a blessing!”
The meal will release in almost 50 other countries. It first hit Asia in Malaysia late last month.
As COVID-19 numbers rise across the region, other Asian countries have grown concerned that the meal’s popularity could spark pandemonium and crowds.
Singapore actually delayed the meal’s debut by a month to help people comply with a new round of stricter distancing rules.
Now, the Philippines is preparing to batten down the hatches. McDonald’s there issued a statement ahead of the meal’s local release stating that it’s preparing to enforce COVID-19 safety measures and to meet the huge demand, according to local news reports.