Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo recently announced that his administration is preparing to ease large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) aimed at containing new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
However, he emphasised that his administration has yet to decide on the matter, snubbing allegations that the government would relax such a measure.
Despite the absence of any confirmation from the federal government on the relaxation on PSBB, people were seen busy buying clothes and other items at Jakarta’s Tanah Abang Market and Bogor’s Pasar Anyar, ignoring physical distancing measures.
Calls for the easing of PSBB to boost recovery of economy due to COVID-19 pandemic
Previously, the Indonesian Employers’ Association (APINDO) urged the government to soften PSBB to avoid further massive lay-offs.
However, the easing of PSBB must be followed by strict health protocols and the provision of rapid test facilities to offices, APINDO suggested.
The PSBB has ordered the closure of offices and public places such as entertainment hubs, restaurants, and cafes.
Only key sectors such as logistics, telecommunication, groceries, healthcare, and financial are allowed to operate during the implementation of social restrictions.
APINDO recorded that the numbers of workers affected by the pandemic had reached 7 million as of 8 May 2020.
Based on data from Indonesia’s Ministry of Manpower as of 1 May, there had been 1,722,958 workers affected by the pandemic, from both formal and informal sectors.
Health experts and workers criticised plans to relax PSBB
The Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) hoped that the government will review its plans to relax PSBB, given the daily rise in the numbers of COVID-19 patients.
On 12 May, there were 568 confirmed COVID-19 cases. The next day, the numbers of new COVID-19 cases confirmed through PCR testing reached 689.
The spike in the numbers of new COVID-19 cases is linked with the increase in the numbers of samples tested, IDI claimed.
The plan to soften PSBB has also raised questions regarding its aim, as many people have caught violating the relevant procedures, such as not wearing masks when they are outside.
“Here, some small-scale cafes (warkop) have been raided by Satpol PP. Those places are usually crowded, and people seem to ignore the PSBB,” Ai, a fried rice seller in Depok in West Java told TOC.
Several regions in Indonesia have imposed the PSBB. Jakarta, the country’s capital city, has entered the second phase of PSBB, which started from 24 April until 22 May.
West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil announced that the PSBB at the provincial level will be continued, as 50 per cent of the province’s regions have been declared as red zones.