Avoiding the Crisis

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  • TEMPO.CO, JakartaWe are now at the most crucial period in responding to the coronavirus disease 2019, or Covid-19, pandemic. Without the right decisions and proper handling, it will be difficult to avoid a multidimensional crisis erupting. 

    ACCORDING to experts at the Bandung Institute of Technology Center for Mathematical Modeling and Simulation, the Covid-19 pandemic in Indonesia will reach a peak at the middle of April. It is predicted that by the end of May we will have at least 60,000 cases in total, with 2,000 new cases appearing every day.

    Although most people who catch Covid-19 recover, at least eight percent need intensive medical care in hospital isolation rooms. This is the biggest concern of health care providers now.

    Without a dramatic increase in the number of medical staff and in medical equipment, hospitals will be overwhelmed. This lack of preparedness applies to the whole country. A shortage of crucial personal protective equipment to prevent health care workers on the frontline from becoming victims is very concerning. This is an indication that the ministry of health has not been working optimally.

    Therefore, the priority of us all is to prevent this worst-case Covid-19 scenario becoming a reality. This is not only the job of the government, but is the responsibility of every citizen.

    The policy of social distancing, for example, will only be effective if everybody participates and avoids risky behavior. It is pointless relying on the police or other government officials to monitor and uphold enforce this rule given the size of our country and the large population.

    A crisis like this often brings out the best in a nation. When faced with an extraordinary challenge, our ability to find solutions together is put to the test. However, this is on condition that the people obtain timely and accurate information. Transparency and honesty from the government is the key factor. An understanding of the problem and the role of each individual will push the people to stand shoulder to shoulder and help each other.

    It is this type of solidarity that is really needed now. We cannot simply hope for one or two people to lead this country out of the problem. The idea of an all-powerful white knight is simply a fantasy. It is the collective motivation and competence of the citizens that will save the country.

    This solidarity also needs to be established with other countries. International support does not always have to be in the form of money or goods, but can also take the form of health care workers or even simply information. Those countries that have managed to reduce the spread of Covid-19 could be asked about their experience. We could learn from their strategies and tactics.

    The government should not feel embarrassed about inviting foreign agencies if it is for the benefit of the people here. There is no need to conceal the fact that we are frantically searching for ways to deal with the pandemic. Of course, we must be prepared to share data, especially about the spread and mutation of the virus in Indonesia so that a Covid-19 vaccine can be discovered quickly and used by everybody.

    It is important to develop international solidarity because every nation on the planet is facing this crisis. A pandemic on this scale only appears once a century. It is time to replace mutual suspicions and trying to find weaknesses in each other with the desire for collaboration. After all, the failure of one nation to deal with the spread of the coronavirus will become a failure of the whole world.

    It is not as if there is no way out of this pandemic. Experts have already mapped the problem and have offered solutions. What is needed now is the willingness of policy makers to put aside electoral political interests and prioritize the public interest. Leaders must take decisions based on strong scientific evidence, not on the immediate economic interests of a small number of cronies around them.

    At a time of pandemic like now, public health considerations must become the primary benchmark. Nevertheless, a decision to impose a lockdown, for example, must take into consideration the economic impact on people in medium to low income groups. Also important is the possibility or not of a quarantine being applied in areas that have many people arriving and leaving, such as Jakarta. However, if this decision can prevent the worst-case pandemic scenario, everybody must do their best to implement it.

    Time is running out: there are less than two weeks to go before the predicted peak of the Covid-19 spread is upon us. What we do in the next few days, as individuals as well as communities, will determine whether or not we can escape this pandemic crisis.

    Read the Complete Story in this Week's Edition of Tempo English Magazine