The central government recently asked the Indonesian people to make peace with COVID-19 and accept a “new normal” living and working condition. Some argue this policy was taken because the so-called “Large Scale Social Distancing” measures, the country’s version of localized quarantines, have not been particularly successful. This is despite the fact that some regions deployed security forces to enforce the quarantine protocols. Indonesia’s colonial history could offer some insights to this problem. Over a century ago, the Dutch colonial government often implemented public health quarantines, although they were not particularly effective. But different regions in the Dutch East Indies had different success rates in dealing with disease outbreaks. For example, the smallpox outbreaks in the 1920s in Central Java were more quickly resolved than in Batavia or Sumatra. Disease outbreaks in the Deli plantations were easier to overcome than those that developed outside the plantations.