A ‘non-natural national disaster’ . . .
Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo declared COVID-19 a “non-natural national disaster” yesterday, strengthening the country’s current measures against the pandemic and giving its COVID-19 taskforce expanded authority. Since Indonesia reported its first coronavirus cases on March 2, the number of cases has surged. It now has over 5,000 confirmed cases and over 450 deaths. More than half of the cases are in the capital, Jakarta, which has been under a state of emergency for almost a month. The country lacks protective equipment and 38 medical workers have died from the virus. A drastic jump in funerals in Jakarta in March and the country’s unusually high death rate of nine per cent hint at a severely under-reported number of COVID-19 infections and inadequate testing.
Tripping over red tape . . .
The government has drawn severe criticism over the delayed and overly bureaucratic response to the virus, particularly form Jakarta’s governor. The thrust of the national public health response has centred on urging social distancing, while the capital has closed schools and pushed non-essential workers to telecommute. The central government has been reticent to allow stricter public health measures nation-wide, fearing the economic impact. It only issued its regulation on “large-scale social restrictions” (PSBB, the acronym in Bahasa) last week, giving the right to municipalities and other jurisdictions to initiate their own measures. However, these must be submitted along with an epidemiological study for approval from the Ministry of Health before implementation. Only eight jurisdictions, including Jakarta, have been approved for PSBB status to date.
Here for the long term . . .
While the Widodo government has issued several economic stimulus packages, particularly targeting poor communities and informal workers dependant on daily wages, its lacklustre strategies for curbing COVID-19 transmission may not contribute to shortening the outbreak’s duration. The exodus from Jakarta of unemployed, low-income workers and the expected ‘return home’ of Ramadan travellers will most likely accelerate the virus’ spread. Indonesia and other developing countries will need support in the months ahead as they struggle to treat and contain COVID-19 with overburdened health-care systems. Perhaps Canada can play a role.
- Jakarta Post: Jokowi declares COVID-19 ‘national disaster’, gives task force broader authority
- Nikkei Asian Review: Indonesia in ‘worst’ position as coronavirus attacks ASEAN block
- Straits Times: Indonesia set to bring 34 million people under partial lockdown