Thursday, April 30, 2020

Indonesia channels spirit of 'gotong royong' in COVID-19 battle by Fardah

Jakarta, April 30 , 2020- Since it first emerged in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, the coronavirus disease has spread to 211 countries and territories, with 3,237,614 confirmed cases, 1,010,320 recoveries, and 228,830 deaths recorded globally, according to Worldometer website.

While declaring COVID-19 a pandemic, the WHO director general, in a media briefing on March 11, 2020, had said that every sector and every individual must be involved in the fight against the deadly virus.

“I have said from the beginning that countries must take a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach, built around a comprehensive strategy to prevent infections, save lives and minimize impact,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

As of April 30, 2020, Indonesia has recorded 10,118 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 792 people succumbing to the infection and 522 patients making a full recovery. The centers of COVID-19 transmission in the country include Jakarta, and several cities in West Java, East Java, Central Java, and Banten.

In keeping with the WHO advise, Indonesia has been involving all stakeholders in battling the virus, and optimizing the nation’s tradition of “gotong royong”, or mutual help or cooperation.

"The government cannot work alone. The entire nation's participation is indispensable," President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) said from the Bogor Presidential Palace on April 18, 2020.

He said the current situation has left people ill at ease, but, with the spirit of "goyong royong", Indonesia would be able to come out of the current crisis.

The call for “gotong royong” resonated with nutritionist Lidya Sembiring, who registered as a volunteer at Jakarta’s Wisma Atlet Emergency Hospital, which is providing COVID-19 treatment. She made the decision after witnessing her medical peers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 battle and upon hearing of the demise of a people she knew.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Laid-off workers to benefit from Pre-Employment Card Program by Fardah

Jakarta, April 21, 2020 (ANTARA) - The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has triggered massive layoffs globally, including Indonesia, hammering industries, particularly in the tourism sector, and forcing closures of schools, hotels, restaurants, amusement centers, and factories, and people to stay home.
The Indonesian government has projected unemployment in Indonesia to rise by five million in the face of the economic pressure caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The forecast aligns with Indonesia's economic growth in its worst-case scenario that is expected to contract, according to Head of the Fiscal Policy Agency (BKF) of the Financial Ministry Febrio Nathan Kacaribu.

In the baseline scenario, the national economic growth would decline to 2.3 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), and this would result in an additional 2.9 million becoming jobless, he had stated on April 20, 2020.

The government will make all-out efforts to maintain economic stability amid pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic to contain the impact on the nation’s unemployment rate, he remarked.

Earlier, Chief of the Task Force for Acceleration of COVID-19 Response Doni Monardo noted that some 1.6 million workers were laid off and forced to take unpaid leave due to the pandemic.

"Reports from ministers show that 1.6 million workers have been laid off and forced to take unpaid leave, and that pre-employment cards must be issued to them soon," he stated following a limited meeting led by President Joko Widodo at the Merdeka Palace on April 7.

COVID-19 deals crushing blow to MSMEs by Fardah

Jakarta, April 25, 2020 - The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has not just attacked people, but also indirectly battered the Indonesian economy, leaving micro-, small-, and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs), the country’s economic backbone, struggling for survival.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, MSMEs contributed 60 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and employed around 97 percent of Indonesia’s workforce.

Based on the data from the Industry Ministry, a total of 43,016 small- and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Employing at least 149,858 workers, the SMEs are located in various provinces, including South Kalimantan, South Sulawesi, Central Sulawesi, Maluku, West Java, East Java, Lampung, and Banten.

Few MSMEs have been quick to reorient their businesses to meet the demand for equipment, such as face masks and personal protective equipment (PPE), in the fight against COVID-19.

Villagers in Ogan Komering Ilir District (OKI) of South Sumatra Province, for instance, have shifted from weaving mats to producing cloth masks, which are in high demand as the authorities have ordered people to wear masks in wake of the outbreak.

"Since President Joko Widodo mandated the use of masks for anyone who goes (out) or is active outside of the home, the Menang Raya Village community has produced 8,000 pieces of cloth masks,” Suparedy, chief of Menang Raya Village, said recently. 

Friday, April 24, 2020

COVID-19 forces change in Indonesia's Ramadhan, Idul Fitri traditions by Fardah

Jakarta, April 24, 2020 (ANTARA) - The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has forced people all over the world to change their way of life, with many nations imposing a series of restrictions to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

Travel enthusiasts have been forced to stay at home with most airways stopping operations temporarily and many countries and cities restricting entry of foreigners. Meanwhile, students have been told to study at home, and employees have taken to working from home.

Indonesian Muslims, who constitute nearly 90 percent of the country’s population of 270 million, have also been forced to change their tradition of praying in mosques during the Islamic holy month of Ramadhan, which began on April 24 this year.

Normally, during this month-long period of fasting, Indonesian Muslims break their fast at sunset with relatives, friends, or colleagues in restaurants or hotels, but this year, that has been rendered impossible due to many restaurants closing or only serving take-away food.

The outbreak of COVID-19 is also set to change festivities in the post-Ramadhan period, when Muslims head to their hometowns for celebrating Idul Fitri with relatives.

Every year, there is a mass exodus as millions of people leave big cities and head to their regional hometowns for Idul Fitri. This exodus is referred to as ‘mudik’. Last year, around 20 million people embarked on this post-Ramadhan exodus.

This year, Idul Fitri will fall on May 24 and 25. But, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indonesian Government has banned ‘mudik’ and imposed restriction and sanctions to prevent people from journeying to their hometowns.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Breaking the chain of COVID-19 transmission by Fardah

Jakarta, April 14, 2020 (ANTARA) - Indonesia, which declared the coronavirus outbreak a national emergency ever since it emerged in March, has finally accorded the pandemic national disaster status as it has now spread to all 34 provinces in the country.

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) signed a letter (number 12/2020), dated 13 April, 2020, on the national disaster status and the appointment of head of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), Doni Monardo, to lead the COVID-19 task force.

The Task Force for the Accelerated Handling of COVID-19 will work on mitigating the impact of the pandemic through coordinated effort with the concerned ministries, government agencies, and regional administrations.

Jokowi has also assigned governors, district heads, and city mayors as heads of the COVID-19 task forces in their respective regions. While drawing up regional policies, they will be required to refer to the policies formulated by the central government.

As of April 14, Indonesia has reported 4,839 confirmed cases. While the death toll from the contagion has reached 459, a total of 426 patients have completely recovered from the infection.

On March 31, President Jokowi signed Government Regulation No. 21 of 2020 on the imposition of Large-Scale Social Distancing (PSBB) measures to break the chain of COVID-19 transmission in the country.

Guidelines have been set forth for local governments for implementing PSBB in the Minister of Health's Regulation (Permenkes) No. 9 of 2020 on accelerating the response to the COVID-19 crisis.

As per the health minister's regulation,PSBB applications submitted by local governments need to be accompanied with data on the number of confirmed cases and maps of their distribution, among other things.

Monday, April 13, 2020

COVID-19: Indonesians overseas being monitored, assisted by Fardah

Jakarta, April 13, 2020 (ANTARA) - Indonesia is continuing to battle against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak with 4,557 confirmed cases reported across 34 provinces, along with 399 deaths and 380 recoveries, as of April 13, 2020.

To curb infections, the government has imposed large-scale social distancing measures, banned any kind of activities that involve gathering of people, closed tourist and amusement centers as well as places of worship, and ordered students to study and employees to work from their homes.

While the country wages war against the deadly virus at home, the government has also promised to protect and help Indonesian citizens studying, working, or visiting overseas.

With their countries of residence or travel destinations imposing lockdowns or quarantines, sealing borders, and banning or restricting international flights to slow the spread of the virus, many Indonesian nationals have been left “trapped” or “stranded”.

The Indonesian Government has vowed that the safety and protection of Indonesian nationals overseas remains its highest priority.

"We have provided assistance in more than 1,600 cases involving Indonesian nationals abroad, and support has been provided by our representatives," Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi told the press on March 26.

Amid the global spike in the number of coronavirus patients, authorities in foreign countries had earlier appealed to Indonesians abroad to return to Indonesia in view of the risk of flight cancellations owing to the imposition of travel restrictions. But, many of them could not make it due to various reasons.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Indonesia not alone in fight against COVID-19 pandemic by Fardah

Jakarta, April 10, 2020 (ANTARA) - Indonesia is not alone in its battle against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, as several nations have offered assistance to the country although they are also facing a similar ordeal.

"Only if we are together we can deal with this (coronavirus outbreak),” President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) said on April 10, 2020 — more than a month after he announced the country’s first two confirmed COVID-19 cases (March 2, 2020).

Indonesia has so far received assistance from at least nine countries for ensuring the smooth supply of medical equipment to accelerate efforts to contain the pandemic.

“Government-to-government assistance is coming from nine countries, namely China, Japan, the US, Singapore, Vietnam, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Arab Emirates," Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told the press via video conference on April 9, 2020.

In addition, Indonesia has received support from various international organizations and entities, namely the WHO, ADB, IAEA, UNDP, IOM, Global Fund, and UNICEF.

Furthermore, Indonesia has recorded assistance from 42 private and non-governmental organizations from nine countries, namely China, Singapore, Korea, Vietnam, France, Russia, Germany, Japan, and Sweden.

"Most of the assistance comprises masks, rapid test kits, and protective equipment," Retno informed.

Indonesia has said it urgently needs protective equipment, masks, rapid diagnostic kits, dacron swabs, ventilators, RT-PCR kits and reagents, and thermometers.

"These seven medical devices are the most urgently needed by Indonesia and it is the concern of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to facilitate them in the future," said Daniel Tumpal Simanjuntak from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who is helping coordinate international assistance to deal with COVID-19.

Protective medical gear are, at present, the most needed by Indonesia, which has lost at least 26 doctors and several nurses to COVID-19 while treating infected patients.

The country has been facing shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical workers fighting on the frontlines of the battle against the deadly virus. Hence, the nation has been racing to procure adequate PPE.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Global cooperation crucial in fight against COVID-19 by Fardah

Jakarta, April 9, 2020 The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected 209 countries and territories across the world, with 1,529,968 people testing positive for the virus and 89,426 succumbing to it as of April 9, 2020.

While many countries struggle to contain COVID-19 transmission, reports have emerged in transnational media recently about allegations against the US of redirecting 200,000 Germany-bound masks for its own use, a move that has been condemned as "modern piracy”.

Last week, there was a report about the U.S. government taking over Chinese supplies of medical equipment ordered by Brazil to fight the coronavirus pandemic. The US Government, however, has denied the two reports.

The reports of the US “hijacking” medical supplies indicate that even the superpower is struggling to stem the spread of infections on its own and is depending on assistance from others.

Over the last 100 days, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc in wealthy nations, and it is likely to devastate poorer and more vulnerable countries, socially and economically, by disrupting the global supply chain.

“Without help and action now, poor countries and vulnerable communities could suffer massive devastation,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General, said on April 9, 2020.

During a virtual extraordinary summit of G20 leaders, chaired by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on March 26, 2020, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) called for collaboration on coronavirus control and prevention.

He asked world leaders to facilitate trade of vaccines as well as other medical equipment by easing tariffs on their import and export.

"The G20 must actively lead efforts to find the anti-virus and medication for COVID-19, of course, hand in hand with the WHO," he advised.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020


Jakarta, 7/4/2020 (Antara) - The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought several countries to a near standstill, as activities involving the congregation of public, including music concerts, sports games, conferences, tourism bourses, and festivals, are either postponed or cancelled.
In Indonesia, the COVID-19 crisis has left Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan with no choice but to announce on March 11 the postponement of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, the 2020 Jakarta E-Prix, earlier scheduled for June this year.

On April 6, Trade Minister Agus Suparmanto had also decided to postpone the country's largest trade exhibition, the Trade Expo Indonesia (TEI) 2020, scheduled for September, to stem the further transmission of COVID-19.

The fourth simultaneous regional head elections (pilkada), earlier scheduled for September this year, was another major event that was postponed owing to the coronavirus outbreak.

The simultaneous pilkada was planned to be held in 270 regions across the country to elect governors in nine provinces, district heads in 224 districts, and mayors in 37 cities on September 23, 2020. The number of eligible voters in the fourth pilkada reached at least 105 million.

The decision to postpone pilkada was made during a hearing of Commission II of the House of Representatives (DPR), with attendees comprising officials of the Home Affairs Ministry, Indonesian General Election Commission (KPU), General Election Supervisory Body (Bawaslu), and the Code of Ethic Council for the Implementation of Elections (DKPP) in Jakarta on March 30, 2020.

The DPR, Home Affairs Ministry, and KPU will discuss and decide when it will be organized, Ahmad Doli Kurnia Tanjung, chairman of Commission II, stated following the hearing.

Earlier, on March 8, six days after President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) had announced the first two confirmed COVID-19 cases in Indonesia, KPU Chairman Arief Budiman noted that 270 regions were ready to hold the 2020 pilkada.

"Three aspects to be prepared ahead of the local elections to date are regulations, human resources (HR), and the budget," he stated while addressing a seminar on "Seeking Quality Leaders and of Integrity towards the 2020 Peaceful Elections" organized by the University of Jember, East Java Province.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Waging war against an invisible enemy called COVID-19 by Fardah

Jakarta, April 4, 2020 (ANTARA) - Indonesia is currently battling an invisible, fast-moving enemy called the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 1.1 million people and killed 59,245 people globally, including 181 in Indonesia as of April 4, 2020.

Originating from Wuhan, China in late 2019, the infectious disease has infected a total of 1,119,733 people in at least 180 countries, of whom, 229,338 have been cured, as per April 4 data.

In Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation with over 270 million people, there have been 1,986 confirmed cases with 134 patients recovering from the infection so far. The number of cases in Indonesia has been relatively small because so far, very few people have undergone COVID-19 tests due to lack of testing kits, among other things.

The fight against the virus in Indonesia is headed by Health Minister Dr. Terawan Agus Putranto, a major general in the Army.

On March 2, 2020, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) had announced the first two positive coronavirus cases in the country. Ten days later, he had signed a presidential decree appointing Lt. Gen Doni Monardo, also an Army general and head of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), as chief of the Task Force for Accelerated COVID-19 Response.

The task force comprises officials from several ministries and institutions, including the Health Ministry, the Indonesian Intelligence Agency (BIN), and the National Police’s intelligence department, among others.

Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers are on the frontlines of the ongoing “war”. They have worked all-out for long hours, and sometimes with limited equipment to protect themselves. A month since the beginning of the war against the contagion, at least 18 Indonesian doctors and several nurses have died of coronavirus disease.

Friday, April 3, 2020


Jakarta, April 3, 2020 (ANTARA) - Indonesia's government has expedited efforts to ready emergency hospitals and quarantine centers by constructing new buildings or reassigning existing ones, including former refugee camps and athlete hostels, against a worse-case scenario of coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission.

As of April 3, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most populous nation of over 270 million, had reached 1,790, with 170 patients succumbing to the infection and 112 patients recovering from it. The first two confirmed coronavirus cases were announced on March 2, 2020.

Globally, the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus, which first emerged in China's town of Wuhan in December, 2019, jumped to 1,015,728, with 53,202 people dying of the disease and 212,991 fully recovering.

Given the swift spike in infections, Indonesia’s government has declared large-scale social distancing measures nationwide, banning foreigners from entering the country, urging people to stay at home, closing schools and amusement centers, and restricting citizens’ movement.

Hundreds of hospitals across Indonesia have been assigned to function as referral hospitals for COVID-19 treatment, while several other buildings have been converted into emergency hospitals or quarantine centers.

The government has constructed major infectious disease observation and quarantine facilities as well as a research center at the former Vietnamese refugee camp of Galang Island, Batam City, Riau Islands Province.

While visiting Galang Island on April 2, 2020, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) said the new emergency hospital on Galang Island will be ready to treat COVID-19 cases, and it will continue to handle infectious diseases and conduct research after the pandemic ends.

"We have planned and prepared everything. We hope it (more cases) do not surface, but at least, we are ready," Jokowi, accompanied by Public Works and Public Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono and National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Chief Lt Gen. Doni Monardo, stated.

The hospital’s construction work began on March 8, 2020, and the authorities plan to commence operations from April 6, 2020.

The Galang infectious disease hospital has 360 beds, 20 ICU isolation beds, and 30 non-ICU isolation beds.

The Galang Island facilities, divided into three zones, span 16 hectares. Zone A can accommodate employees, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers; Zone B includes the main building housing an isolation room with 20 beds and an observation building with 340 beds and laboratories; while Zone C is for non-ICU treatment, with 30 beds and observation rooms. The emergency hospital also has three helipads.

In addition to the Galang Island facilities, the government has converted two athlete hostels used to accommodate thousands of athletes during the Asian Games held simultaneously in Jakarta and Palembang, South Sumatra, in 2018.

The number of inpatients at the Wisma Atlet Emergency Hospital located in Kemayoran, Jakarta, burgeoned to 449 as of April 2, from 432 on the previous day.

"The inpatients comprised 276 men and 173 women," Brigadier General M. Saleh, deputy of the hospital's Combined Joint Task Force, noted in a statement.

Of the total, 125 were confirmed patients, 242 were patients under surveillance (PDP), and 82 people under monitoring (ODP).

The Wisma Atlet Emergency Hospital, housing two towers at the Wisma Athletes (Athletes Housing), was officially inaugurated on March 23, 2020.

Maj. Gen. Eko Margiyono, head of the emergency hospital, revealed that in the event of continued rise in the number of COVID-19 positive cases, two additional towers in the building complex will be turned into treatment rooms.

In Palembang, the Jakabaring Athlete housing center has been converted into an emergency hospital, with 369 rooms and some one thousand beds. Other towers will also be readied to accommodate more patients if needed.

Currently, 72 Indonesian migrant workers coming from Malaysia and Singapore were being quarantined in Jakabaring as ODP in the fight against COVID-19.

With tens of thousands of Indonesian migrant workers returning from abroad, particularly Malaysia, the government has put in place measures for them to firstly be quarantined to monitor their health.

"The day our migrant workers arrived in Riau, our health workers checked their body temperature and sprayed disinfectant liquid over them," spokesperson for the Riau Provincial Administration's Task Force for Handling COVID-19 Indra Yovi stated recently.

In addition to migrant workers returning from abroad, domestic migrant workers also tended to go back to their villages since several of them, being micro-scale self-employed people, had lost their jobs, and they were keen on spending the holy fasting month of Ramadan and Idul Fitri Islamic festivity with their relatives in their hometowns.

Prior to Idul Fitri, an exodus of homebound travelers is usually observed from cities to rural areas across Indonesia. This year, Idul Fitri will be celebrated on May 24-25.

The government has urged Indonesians to not return to their hometowns for Idul Fitri celebrations to prevent COVID-19 transmission to rural areas. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, thousands of people began their return earlier than usual despite the appeal.

Hence, the government has ruled that people keen on returning to their hometowns, or locally called "mudik", must be quarantined for 14 days and undergo health examination in their hometowns.

On March 27, Indonesian government's spokesperson for COVID-19 response, Achmad Yurianto, urged people to not return to their hometowns to avoid the risk of spreading the contagion to more areas.

Yurianto pointed to the risk being much higher due to close contact between travelers, especially among those using means of public transportation that are crowded.

Development of Disadvantaged Regions, Villages, and Transmigration (PDTT) Minister Abdul Halim Iskandar ordered village chiefs to prepare quarantine centers to fight the coronavirus transmission.

"Schools, places of worship, village halls, or homes lent by residents can serve as isolation rooms," the PDTT minister noted in a statement on April 2, 2020.

Iskandar has issued circulars that instruct village chiefs to establish volunteer task forces against COVID-19 and village volunteer protocols in tackling the pandemic.

The COVID-19 task forces should help ready quarantine rooms replete with facilities, including for bathing and washing, as well as toilets and beds.

The isolation rooms are intended for use for villagers with ODP status, as they return from COVID-19 affected regions.

"That is because not all villagers have adequate rooms in the house. How can you isolate people if their houses have no separate rooms? The solution lies in using elementary school buildings and village halls and placing partitions to create several rooms," Iskandar noted.