Worthless Wordplay

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Laila Afifa

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  • TEMPO.CO, JakartaThe surge in Covid-19 cases practically crippled all the hospitals throughout the country. Bandying around new terms has made us forget the essential target.

    A GOVERNMENT busy making up wordplay is not a promising way to handle a contagion. After using the term "large-scale social restrictions," or PSBB, it has now coined a new one, the "implementation of restrictions of community activity," or PPKM. Moreover, curtailment of movement is imposed only in parts of Java and Bali.

    Coordinating Minister for the Economy Airlangga Hartarto announced activity restrictions in Java and Bali on January 11 to 25 after a spike in new Covid-19 cases and deaths on the two islands. Isolation rooms and intensive care units in Covid-19 referral hospitals on average have a current 70-80 percent occupancy rate, exceeding the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested threshold, which is below 60 percent. At the national level, Covid-19 cases surpassed the daily record at over 9,300 cases.

    The imposition of the PPKM is a mere euphemism to respond to the pandemic. Prior, the government used the PSBB - in reference to Health Quarantine Law No. 6/2018 - to avoid using the word "quarantine" or "lockdown," which would entail fulfilling the needs of all citizens in any given region. After the PSBB incited a negative reaction economy-wise, the government decided to shun the term altogether, as it was urgently gearing up to limit all movement of citizens in the pandemic's red zones.

    The spike in the number of new Covid-19 cases in the past few days could have been predicted earlier. After every holiday, the curve of new Covid-19 cases always shoots up sharply. After the long end-of-fasting-month Lebaran and August 17 Independence Day holidays, for instance, the number of new Covid-19 cases shot up 118 percent. Taking note of that fact, the government should have been firm in restraining people's movements before Christmas and the New Year.

    The point is, it wasn't just mis-anticipation, the government several times ignored the warnings of experts against a possible Covid-19 surge. The government adamantly went ahead and held the simultaneous regional heads election despite experts reminding them the political event would trigger crowding and further spread the coronavirus. As a result, the recent surge in Covid-19 cases is directly correlated to the government's erroneous steps.

    When a contagion worsens, tightening social activity should be a given. Yet even that is not enough. The government has to increase testing, tracing, and treatment of all Covid-19 patients. The fact remains, the average tracing ratio of Covid-19 cases in this country is only at 1:2. That means of all-new Covid-19 positive cases, tracing their contacts on average only goes up to two people. That is far below the WHO tracing standard of 30 people per case.

    Though urgent, curtailing people's activities in Java and Bali feels half-hearted at best. Even though the Covid-19 spike has nearly crippled all hospitals throughout the country, the government is only curbing activities in 27 regencies and cities of seven provinces. The spread of the virus does not give a whit about administrative territories.

    Partial restraining in Java and Bali for two weeks feels much too brief to quell a pandemic, which could well continue unabated for a long while yet. Restraining people's movements need to be enacted unrelentingly until the Covid-19 curve flattens significantly. While inhibiting movement to create herd immunity, the government should immediately get a mass vaccination drive underway with the appropriate medical procedure.

    During the pandemic, the public needs to loudly voice out continual criticism against the government to make it stop taking all these missteps. At the same time, the community should also give the government its fierce support. The only way is by continuing to strictly adhere to health protocol: keeping a distance, wearing a face mask, and washing hands.

    Read the Complete Story in Tempo English Magazine