Indonesia — A former health minister has recently written to President Joko Widodo to suggest ways to manage the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.
Siti Fadillah Supari, who has been serving a jail term since 2016 over a medical equipment graft case, had asked her cellmate in the Pondok Bambu Women’s Penitentiary to pen the letter for her due to her fragile health condition.
Her lawyer confirmed that she had signed the nine-page letter, dated 16 May.
The 71-year-old cardiologist had previously written to the president detailing suggestions to mitigate the outbreak.
Here are the main takeaways from the letter as cited in Solo Pos.
No need to wait for the COVID-19 vaccine
In her recent letter, she called on Indonesians to stand up, without having to wait for the vaccine.
Citing a statement by Prof. David Nabarro, a professor at Imperial College London and now the special envoy to the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding COVID-19, she argued that there would be no vaccines suitable for coronavirus.
“We can’t make an absolute assumption that a vaccine will appear at all, or if it does appear, whether it will pass all the tests of efficacy and safety,” Nabarro said.
Even if tech mogul Bill Gates produces a vaccine, the virus mutation in Indonesia is different from that in other parts of the world, which means that the vaccine will not be compatible with the type of virus in Indonesia, she elaborated.
Large-scale social restrictions instead of strict lockdown a good move
Siti repeatedly supported the current government’s decision to impose large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) instead of a strict lockdown. As PSBB also orders the temporary closure of several non-vital sectors, she also backed the gradual ease of PSBB aimed at reactivating the economy.
Maintain physical distancing, wear masks and wash hands regularly
The government’s restrictions on the people’s movement in the long-term, however, will harm the economy. Adopting a new lifestyle with stricter health protocols is the best solution, said Siti.
She elaborated that people’s movement will not worsen the COVID-19 outbreak, as long as people maintain physical distancing, wear masks, and wash their hands regularly.
Increase capacity and availability of PCR test facilities
Siti also suggested the government provide molecular-based swab test facilities based on Indonesia’s strain of virus due to its validity. Also, she hoped that all Indonesians could get access to laboratories providing PCR testings.
Qualities of hospitals must be improved, and the government must expand and plasma therapy developed by the Eijkman Institute.
A week ago, Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) warned that the numbers of COVID-19 positive cases could reach 40,000 due to the increased numbers of swab tests conducted.