Ridwan Kamil: Incomplete Data Will Get Me into Trouble

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  • TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - West Java Governor Mochamad Ridwan Kamil has ordered large-scale social restrictions—or PSBB as widely known—across the entire West Java region starting May 6 following the successful implementation of the same measures in Bogor-Depok-Bekasi and Greater Bandung.

    The West Java government has not eased the PSBB albeit the fall in the number of Covid-19 positive cases in Bogor, Depok and Bekasi as well as Greater Bandung. Governor Mochamad Ridwan Kamil, or familiarly called Emil, instead widened the PSBB scope to the provincial level to keep the tight lid on the spread of infections.

    Emil, 48, has not only expanded the restrictions on the movements of West Java's population of 50 million. Disorganized data regarding aid recipients and multiple government assistance channels prompted the former Bandung mayor to take his own initiatives to distribute basic necessities to 30,000 poor families. “I would have lost 15 days to help them if I had to wait until everything was sorted out,” he said.

    Emil explained several issues to Tempo, from the impact of the PSBB, muddled data on social assistance recipients in West Java, to the spike in the number of poor people brought on by Covid-19. The interview was supplemented with additional information Emil sent via one of his staff on May 4. 

    How effective is the PSBB in Bodebek and Bandung in bringing down the number of Covid-19 positive cases?

    We found it to be quite effective. The Covid curve is relatively flat now. The average rate of new cases in West Java is only 40 per day so the percentage is not increasing. Bodebek which applied the PSBB saw the decline. So did Bandung except for Cimahi.

    Why are the cases increasing in Cimahi?

    The infection spread because of people returning to their hometowns (mudik). We divide the cases into two categories namely local infections and imported infections. We began to prohibit mudik only in this PSBB. Mudik was what spurred the spread of the infections which previously were confined to crowded regions to villages with no cases. It was because of the people who took advantage of the moments before the mudik ban was put in effect although they were already infected with the virus. But I don’t anticipate any more spread after 14 days from April 30 as the lockdown is already in place. People are not allowed to enter the region. We turn them back in the Karawang and Puncak areas.

    Can the PSBB effectively restrict people’s movements?

    Social distancing can only cut 10 percent (of infections) as perhaps around 60 percent of the people were still moving around even under social distancing measures. Even after the PSBB, human movement is still close to 50 percent on average. Ideally, the PSBB can work if the movement is restricted to only 30 percent.

    What is the solution?

    We remind regional heads to restrict the human movements in their regions to 30 percent. If it works, the PSBB can be scientifically justified while we do massive testing. There is something interesting. Before the PSBB, Bodebek had the highest virus reproduction and infection rate followed by West Java, Bandung, and non-PSBB areas in the second, third and fourth places respectively. Afterward, the areas that have not imposed the PSBB now have the highest infection rate followed by West Java, Bandung and Bodebek in the same order. The viral suppression rate has also improved (after the PSBB).

    Hasn't the number of people coming from the PSBB zone decreased?

    Bodebek which previously recorded the highest reproduction rate is now at the bottom (with the lowest rate) as they closed their doors to people coming for mudik, curbing imported cases. Meanwhile, 17 cities and regencies in West Java which previously had the lowest cases but did not enforce the PSBB now have the highest imported cases. That’s why today I proposed to the health minister to apply a provincial level PSBB. Yesterday, I had a video conference with regents and mayors and we all agreed that imported cases are the source of risk. With the PSBB, we only need to focus on local cases.

    Do you think that the provincial level PSBB will be able to cut the number of positive cases?

    The success of Bodebek and Bandung in flattening the curve can hopefully be emulated by the remaining 17 cities and regencies. One of the indicators of the success of the PSBB is the decline in the Covid reproduction rate. If the measure is successful all across the province simultaneously, West Java should be able to manage the outbreak well.

    Read the full interview in Tempo English Magazine