Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Political turmoil amid COVID-19, economic recession can add to burden by Fardah

Jakarta, Oct 13, 2020 (ANTARA) - Indonesia has been struggling hard to survive the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and its major impacts, notably the economic recession.

The country’s tally of confirmed cases reached 336,716, total recoveries at 258,519, and death toll at 11,935. It was ranked 21st on the Worldometer’s COVID-19 list of over 200 countries on Oct 13, 2020.

The country saw an economic contraction of 5.32 percent in the second quarter of 2020. Several million Indonesians became jobless owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The nation had to face another burden caused by a political turmoil marked by major rallies on Oct 6-8 and Oct 13, in several cities following the House of Representatives’ (DPR’s) decision to endorse the government-proposed Job Creation Law on Oct 5, 2020.

The government affirmed that every stakeholder, including the representatives of employers, trade unions, academicians, and experts, were involved in drafting the Job Creation Law, Indonesia’s first omnibus law comprising 79 laws. The draft law was also introduced to the public, it stated.

On Oct 9, President Joko Widodo had highlighted numerous benefits of the law intended to boost domestic and foreign investment and create job opportunities for Indonesian workers. The law aims to protect the interests of Indonesian workers and the environment as well as boost the economy.

However, trade unions, students, several university lecturers, and activists hold diverse opinions, as they harbor concerns over the law benefiting companies rather than workers, as it would encourage outsourcing the employment system, allow foreign blue-collar workers to work in Indonesia, and endanger the environment.

Exchange of words continue unabated via mainstream and social media, but no solution lies in sight, as some people, including legislators, affirmed that work was still ongoing on the final draft of the law. When the Parliament endorsed the law, hard copies of the final draft were not distributed to the attending MPs.

"No, (we did not receive hard copies of the final draft). It is not yet completed, but it is already endorsed. What is being endorsed is a ghost bill," Benny Kabur Harman, the Democratic Party legislator, who decided to walk out while the endorsement was ongoing, stated.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Omnibus law protests highlight need for dialogue by Fardah


 Jakarta, Oct 10 , 2020 (ANTARA) - President Joko Widodo’s goal of getting Indonesia’s first ever omnibus bill passed into law has finally been realized after six months of deliberations.

On October 5, 2020, the House of Representatives (DPR) endorsed the proposed legislation, which comprises 79 laws and spans 905 pages.

Six political parties — PDIP, Golkar, PKB, NasDem, PPP, and Gerindra — firmly endorsed the omnibus bill; the National Mandate Party (PAN) endorsed it, but with some notes; while, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the Democratic Party (PD) opposed the bill.

The bill was proposed by Widodo after he was re-elected as Indonesia's President for the 2019-2024 term. At his swearing-in ceremony on October 20, 2019, Jokowi had asked the Parliament to complete deliberations on the omnibus law within 100 days.

The government completed the draft omnibus bill on February 12, 2020, and the Parliament began discussing it on April 2, 2020.

The government has claimed that all stakeholders in the country were involved in the drafting of the bill, including the Manpower Ministry, experts, businessmen, and labor union representatives. And, it was widely publicized among the public, both the government and the DPR have claimed.

However, following its Parliamentary approval, the law has been rejected by many labor unions, activists, and university lecturers, who have said it would harm workers’ interests and endanger the environment.

Their opposition centers on certain fundamental issues covered by the law, which, they feel, would be disadvantageous to workers. The issues pertain to reducing severance pay, implementing a contract and outsourcing system, setting minimum wages, and the potential loss of health insurance and pensions for workers owing to the implementation of contract-based employment and outsourcing, among other things.

“Our concerns are that the omnibus bill will hurt labor. Because some of the regulations will allow foreign unskilled workers (to be employed), it will be a massive use of outsourcing, flexible working hours, and a change in payroll scheme from monthly to hourly,” chairman of the Indonesian Trade Union Confederation (KSPI), Said Iqbal, noted in a statement.

Starting October 6, 2020, labor unions had called for a nationwide strike and rallies in several Indonesian cities. University students, vocational students, activists, and other elements also joined the rallies.

On October 8, 2020, the third consecutive day of protests, the rallies took a violent turn, leading to several protesters and policemen getting injured, and 18 bus stops and one MRT station suffering damage downtown of Jakarta.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

AS INFECTIONS SPIKE, JAKARTA PRIORITIZES HEALTH OVER RECOVERY by Fardah


 

Jakarta, 4/10/2020 (ANTARA) - Several Indonesian provinces reported a sharp spike in coronavirus infections in August and September, with the highest single-day rise of 4,494 cases recorded nationally on September 26, 2020, to which Jakarta alone contributed 1,322 cases.

When the Indonesian capital celebrated its 493rd anniversary on June 24 this year, it had clocked 195 fresh COVID-19 cases over a 24-hour period, which had taken its total tally to 10,472. Nationwide, the tally had reached 49,009, with 1,113 fresh cases registered that day.

In comparison, Indonesias COVID-19 tally was pegged at 200,506 cases as of October 3 this year, with 4,007 fresh cases reported in the previous 24 hours. Jakarta accounted for 1,265 of the total infections, which took its total caseload to 77,452.This surge in infections has not just been seen in Indonesia, but in many countries across the world after they relaxed COVID-19 measures from May this year, when the rate of infections slowed, to make way for the new normal.

The Indonesian government also eased restrictions starting May to begin the transition to the new normal in several regions, including Jakarta, where the number of COVID-19 cases had shown a declining trend.

Jakarta had imposed Large-Scale Social Distancing (PSBB) measures for the first time from April, to June 3, 2020. Starting from June 4, the capital city had implemented a transitional PSBB as part of the shift towards the new normal.

However, after the COVID-19 infection rate climbed, Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan decided to re-enforce PSBB measures from September 14, 2020 for a period of 14 days.

The measures include imposition of sanctions and fines on those found violating the health protocols, which prescribe wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing, restricting the capacity of spaces, and refraining from activities that lead to gathering of crowds.

Considering the emergency situation in Jakarta, there are no other choices, but to put the emergency brakes. This means that we have to implement the PSBB as it was in the beginning of the pandemic. This is the emergency brake that we have to pull, Baswedan said on September 9, 2020.

Data shows infections were climbing in Jakarta at the time: The capital city had recorded 7,960 active cases on August 30, 2020, and 12 days later, on September 11, 2020, the number had jumped to 11,824 active cases, an increase of 3,864 cases, or 49 percent.

According to data provided by the Jakarta provincial government, over 12 days of the PSBB implementation from September 12-23, 2020, the number of active cases was recorded at 13,277, an increase of 1,453, or 12 percent, compared to the figure for September 11.

Despite the slowing of active cases, the Jakarta authorities have remained vigilant over concerns the infections could spike again.

Therefore, Anies Baswedan has decided to extend the PSBB until October 11, 2020, by enforcing health protocols focusing on the 3Ms (wearing masks, maintaining distance, and washing hands) .

The Association of Indonesia's Indigenous Businessmen (HIPPI), Jakarta chapter, has said it understands the Jakarta Governors rationale for extending the PSBB measures.

In a statement released recently, chairman of HIPPI Jakarta, Sarman Simanjorang, said entrepreneurs have no choice but to support the policy.

The PSBB extension has burdened entrepreneurs owing to minimal transactions, a fall in turnover of up to 80 percent, decrease in cash flow, and increase in operating costs, he noted.

"But this is a risk that we must face and share. Our hope is that this PSBB is the last one so that there is certainty for the business sector," he said.

According to President Joko Widodo (Jokowi), the nations main focus is handling the COVID-19 pandemic as economic recovery will follow suit.

However, on September 14, 2020, he asked regional heads to not be hasty in imposing lockdowns in their territories to curb the transmission of COVID-19.

Once again, do not rush to close an area, city, or district, and if we work based on data, the intervention steps will be more effective and can immediately solve problems on the field, Jokowi remarked while chairing a limited cabinet meeting at the Merdeka Palace.

To deal with the rise in infections, Jakarta has increased the number of referral hospitals for COVID-19 patients from 67 to 100. The authorities have later added 13 regional public hospitals (RSUD) and 26 private hospitals on the list of referral hospitals for COVID-19 treatment.

Furthermore, the government has instructed that residents who test positive for COVID-19 undergo self-quarantine at facilities offered by the government.

However, it is also allowing people to self-isolate at home as per the requisite criteria.

"Well, the point is that every citizen exposed to and infected with COVID-19 must undergo independent isolation, either individually or through government facilities, but not without control," Governor Baswedan explained.

Several hotels are also offering rooms for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, in accordance with President Widodos directions. Currently, at least 15 one-, two-, and three-star rated hotels are being readied as quarantine facilities.

The decision has been taken on account of the high number of COVID-19 family clusters.

Patients exposed to COVID-19 who have undergone independent isolation at home could raise the likelihood of virus transmission, Baswedan stated.

One positive news is that the COVID-19 recovery rate in Jakarta has reached 75.2 percent of the total cases, according to Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, Airlangga Hartarto.

"The central government is paying special attention to the situation development and will always increase the capacity of hospitals and health facilities," he stated.

Meanwhile, Prof. Dr. Hasbullah Thabrany, a community health expert, has lauded the decision of the Jakarta Governor to re-enforce the PSBB to check the spike in COVID-19 cases, saying strict implementation of PSBB will effectively control the virus spread.

In the past, when PSBB implementation had not been relaxed, it had proved quite effective in controlling (COVID-19 transmission). After relaxing it, the number of cases increased. So, it must be tightened again, Thabrany noted.

The tightening of PSBB would certainly have an impact on the economy, but the government has a bigger responsibility -- prioritizing public health above other interests, he remarked.

So, by prioritizing public health, it is hoped economic recovery would also be realized more quickly "lest people whose businesses are affected influence the government to not implement strict PSBB", he said.

He said anyone who disagrees with the strict implementation of the PSBB must be held responsible for the impact of the spike in COVID-19 cases on public health.

"If they are willing to (take) the responsibility, to pay the (medical cost) of someone infected with (COVID-19), go ahead," he averred.

In addition to strict PSBB, the Jakarta authorities must also impose a curfew to limit outdoor activities at night, he advised.  
 
 

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Saturday, September 26, 2020

AUTHORITIES PRESCRIBE AGAINST NON-ESSENTIAL HOSPITAL VISITS AMID PANDEMIC by Fardah


 

Jakarta, 26/9/2020  (ANTARA) - People usually go to the hospital to be rid of disease, but a visit to the hospital is not entirely free of risk as they too can contribute to the spread of infections, especially nowadays.

This has been evidenced by hospitals emerging as the largest COVID-19 clusters amid the ongoing pandemic.

Therefore, children and pregnant women have been strongly advised against visiting hospitals if they are not sick. Many hospitals have even barred entry to children.

Not just visitors, but healthcare workers, including doctors and nurses, and cleaners risk exposure to disease while working at hospitals, particularly in the current pandemic.

In Manokwari, West Papua, about 38 healthcare workers have contracted COVID-19 as of September 22, 2020, prompting the closure of several public health facilities to break the chain of virus transmission.

Of the 38 healthcare workers, 26 worked at hospitals and 12 at community health centers (Puskesmas), Henri Sembiring, head of the Manokwari Task Force for COVID-19 Response, stated recently.

The Manokwari authorities have closed three Puskesmas -- Pasir Putih, Sanggeng, and Maripi -- as well as the surgery room at the Manokwari Regional Hospital after healthcare workers contracted COVID-19.

Similar reports have come in from several regions across Indonesia. Since the country announced its first two COVID-19 cases on March 2, 2020, at least 117 doctors and 70 nurses have succumbed to the deadly virus.

According to data provided by the Task Force for COVID-19 Response on September 26, 2020, Indonesia has recorded 4,494 fresh cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total caseload to 271,339. With 90 more people succumbing to the disease, the death toll has reached 10,308.

In a positive development, as many as 3,207 COVID-19 patients have recovered in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of recoveries to 199,403.

Jakarta has recorded the highest number of new cases at 1,322 and the highest number of recoveries at 764, followed by West Java, which has reported 386 fresh cases and 622 recoveries, while East Java has seen 279 fresh cases and 338 patients recovering in the last 24 hours.

Earlier, the Task Force had noted that hospitals had emerged as the largest contributors of confirmed coronavirus cases.

During the period from June 4 to September 12, 2020, clusters arose mostly from hospitals, communities, and offices, with the maximum number of COVID-19 cases (contributed by them). There are 24 thousand patients infected at hospitals in Jakarta," Wiku Adisasmito, spokesperson for the task force, said on September 22 2020.

Dr. Dewi Nur Aisyah, head of the task force's data and information technology section, has also confirmed that in Jakarta, 63.46 percent of the total cases have originated from patients visiting hospitals.

The second largest cluster in Jakarta has been the cluster of patients in the community, who have accounted for 15,133 cases, or 39.36 percent of the total COVID-19 cases in the capital city.

So, if one person tests positive, it should be traced who he has made contact with so far. The family cluster is included in this category," she said.

Meanwhile, the third cluster that has contributed the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Jakarta is the office cluster.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Safeguarding COVID-19 frontliners as cases spike by Fardah

 Jakarta, Sept 25, 2020 (ANTARA) - Several countries across the globe, such as Britain, India, the US, South Korea, Russia, and Indonesia, have re-imposed stringent health protocols to curb a spike in coronavirus cases.

In Indonesian capital Jakarta, which has recorded the highest number of infections in the country, the Wisma Atlet Emergency Hospital (RSD) has opened up Towers 4 and 5 to accommodate the growing number of asymptomatic patients requiring self-isolation.

The hospital was earlier operating just Towers 6 and 7. These towers are being used to accommodate patients with mild to moderate symptoms, coordinator of the COVID-19 emergency hospital, Major General Dr. Tugas Ratmono, noted recently.

As of September 21, 2020, the bed occupancy at Towers 6 and 7 had reached 80 percent. Meanwhile, the bed occupancy at Tower 5 had touched 90 percent.



The recent spike in coronavirus infections has spelt difficulties for the national economy, citizens, as well as healthcare workers who have been battling the virus since March 2 this year, when the country reported its first infections.

 

Frontline workers are toiling day and night in highly uncomfortable personal protective equipment (PPEs), fighting off exhaustion even as they risk exposure to the virus.


At least 117 Indonesian doctors have succumbed to the disease as per data accessed on September 17, 2020. As of August 30 this year, 70 nurses have succumbed to the virus, and about 800 pharmacists nationwide have so far been exposed to COVID-19.

With COVID-19 vaccines still under development, strict health protocols such as wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and washing hands with soap, remain the only effective means to prevent coronavirus spread. However, a significant number of people have shown reluctance to wearing masks or staying at home.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

PILKADA AMID PANDEMIC POSES A DILEMMA by Fardah

Jakarta, 18/9/2020 (ANTARA) - One by one, electoral officers who have been busy preparing for the 2020 simultaneous regional head elections (Pilkada) amid the coronavirus pandemic and candidates contesting the polls have tested positive for COVID-19.

Officers from the central and local offices of the General Election Commission (KPU) as well as the Election Supervisory Board (Bawaslu) have contracted the virus, while the KPU headquarters in Jakarta has issued a work-from-home guidance.

The novel coronavirus disease has infected more than 30 million people in 213 countries and territories across the globe, and claimed more than 940 thousand lives since the first cases emerged in Wuhan, China, late last year.

In Indonesia, the total confirmed case tally has reached 236,519 and the death toll has touched 9,336 since the country announced its first COVID-19 infections on March 2, 2020.

The government is determined to hold the Pilkada in 270 regions, or nearly half of its territories, on December 9, 2020, despite a record spike in COVID-19 infections lately, with daily cases reaching nearly four thousand over the last one week.

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has frequently lent considerable weightage to no compromises being made in implementing the COVID-19 health protocols during each stage of the local elections, saying public health remains an unwavering priority.

"I need to once again reaffirm that the health of the people is everything, which means there would be no compromises in the implementation of health protocols," the President said on September 8, 2020.

He highlighted the criticality of implementing health protocols in the wake of continued and gross health protocol violations by prospective candidate pairs, including holding of concerts during the participation declarations, adding that such actions cannot be tolerated.

As many as 734 nominee pairs have registered as candidate pairs for the 2020 Pilkada, which will be held simultaneously in nine provinces, 224 districts, and 37 cities.

The campaign period will last from September 26 to December 5, 2020, or 71 days. Initially, voting was scheduled to take place on September 23, 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, voting day has been postponed to December 9, 2020. As many as 109,569,111 eligible voters are expected to turn out on polling day.