Continuous Chaos in Indonesia's Covid-19 Mitigation

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Laila Afifa

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  • President Joko Widodo and Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin (right), Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy Sandiaga Uno (two left), Bali Governor I Wayan Koster (two right) and Deputy Governor Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardhana (left) give press statements after reviewing vaccinations Mass Covid-19 at Puri Ubud, Gianyar, Bali, Tuesday, March 16, 2021. Photo: Johannes P. Christo

    President Joko Widodo and Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin (right), Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy Sandiaga Uno (two left), Bali Governor I Wayan Koster (two right) and Deputy Governor Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardhana (left) give press statements after reviewing vaccinations Mass Covid-19 at Puri Ubud, Gianyar, Bali, Tuesday, March 16, 2021. Photo: Johannes P. Christo

    TEMPO.CO, JakartaThe rapid increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in Indonesia is proof of the weaknesses in the system to control the pandemic. There is a problem of leadership.

    The recent surge in the number of positive cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019, or Covid-19, shows the failure of the system to control the pandemic in Indonesia. In this critical situation, the government must not show hesitation in determining policy and priorities to stop matters getting worse. Unfortunately, President Joko Widodo's instructions to officials in his government have been halfhearted and full of contradictions.

    Indonesia saw a record number of new Covid-19 cases last week. On June 24, the number of Covid-19 positive patients reached 20,574. This is the largest number of new daily infections since March 2, 2020, when the first Covid-19 cases were confirmed in this nation. The total number of infections throughout Indonesia has now exceeded two million.

    The spread of the coronavirus delta variant has resulted in cases among children also rising sharply. The number of children infected has reached 250,610, or 12.6 percent of all cases. This has been more serious by the fact that hospital facilities and wars for Covid-19 patients filling up.

    The government has been late to realize that the success of controlling the pandemic is determined by health protocols being implemented by everybody at every level. The lack of firm and consistent authority from the highest levels of leadership, in this case President Joko Widodo, has led to disorganization in the implementation of the program on the ground. The synergy between ministries that should be the key to success in slowing down the Covid-19 infection curve has never properly been put into practice.

    Since the beginning of the pandemic, President Jokowi has been proclaiming a strategy of brake and accelerate. It sounds good, but the policy applied to control the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic without slowing down the economy is not easy in practice. When the spread of Covid-19 slows down, it is possible to get the economy moving again. However, when the situation suddenly changes and the infection rate soars, it is almost impossible to put the brakes on the economy. Especially when the time is the crucial factor. Even a short period before business are ready to tighten up health protocols again is enough for the spread if the virus to accelerate.

    This is why we are now in so much trouble with Covid-19. Long before Idul Fitri in the middle of May, epidemiologists had warned of the danger of an explosion in the number of Covid-19 patients after the Lebaran holiday. These concerns have proved accurate. Although the government banned people from going home to their villages, there was not enough effort to make sure this restriction is implemented. Toll roads, airports, railroad stations and ports continued operating. Now we know that no fewer than 1.5 million vehicles evaded the checkpoints on major roads.

    The same is true of the coronavirus delta variant. From the beginning, experts warned the government about the serious danger of this new variant. But the return of Indonesian migrant workers from a number of nations afflicted with it was simply allowed to go ahead. The decision by the foreign affairs ministry banning visitors from these pandemic red zone nations was not effective because the justice and human rights minister failed to tighten up immigration and quarantine checks at airports and ports.

    It is easy to imagine chaos continuing into the future. Policies from the ministry of health to trace the coronavirus infection chain and then isolate the sources will not be effective when the education and culture minister allows the resumption of face-to-face teaching in schools. Efforts to prevent an increase in the death rate are certain to fail if the tourism ministry continued to persuade people to travel to Bali.

    Now President Jokowi must be more realistic. The endeavor to push through a number of priority economic programs could endanger people at a time of pandemic like this. The government must return to simple logic: the economy will only grow if the pandemic is brought under control and people stay healthy.

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