The rise in the number of new COVID-19 cases in East Java has been alarming in the past few weeks.
On 21 May, the province recorded the highest number of new daily cases with 502 cases. The province saw 131 new cases on the following day, before rising to 466 on 23 May.
On a national scale, Indonesia recorded 687 new cases as of Thursday (28 May). This brings the total tally of cases in Indonesia to 24,538.
East Java has the second-highest total tally of COVID-19 cases in the country with 4,142.
The growing numbers of new clusters
Head of the COVID–19 National Task Force Doni Monardo revealed that the spike in the number of new cases in East Java is due to the potential COVID-19 clusters.
New clusters could be formed from the cases reported in cigarette factory Sampoerna, Islamic boarding school (pesantren) Temboro in Magetan, the Ijtima Ulama gathering in Gowa, South Sulawesi, and the Jamaah Tabligh.
As of 11 May, East Java’s COVID-19 Task Force managed to trace up to 57 COVID-19 clusters in the province.
Among them were the traditional market in Bojonegoro and the Indonesia Hajj Medical Worker (TKHI).
Lack of discipline in enforcing social restriction measures
A Surabaya-based freelancer told TOC correspondent that the implementation of large-scale social restriction (PSBB) in East Java had been ineffective as many public places remained open without paying attention to the health protocols.
“People are still going out freely without wearing face masks. Some of the public places in PSBB-imposed areas are still open. Ahead of the Eid holiday, a mall in Tulungagung was so crowded, and people ignored physical distancing,” she stated.
This was supported by the results of an online survey from the alumni association of Airlangga University’s School of Public Health – as cited in the Jakarta Post – which revealed that most offices, factories, and markets in PSBB-enacted areas remained open without abiding to the health protocols.
The PSBB was earlier imposed in Greater Surabaya and its satellite regions – Gresik and Sidoarjo, Malang city, Batu city, as well as Malang regency.
However, communications expert at Airlangga University, Suko Widodo, told Liputan6 that the PSBB enforcement did not fully involve scientists and social science experts.
“Not only health science, but the PSBB must involve other sciences such as psychology, social science, and others. In other words, this policy lacks a scientific foundation,” he asserted.
Nonetheless, Mr Suko thanked the health workers, volunteers, police, and military personnel for their hard work in ensuring that the people complies with the physical distancing measures.
Overcrowded hospitals in Surabaya
Meanwhile, several hospitals in the province’s capital Surabaya have reportedly been overwhelmed by the surge in the numbers of COVID-19 patients.
“Some of my husband’s friends are medical workers at numerous hospitals designated to treat COVID-19 patients in Surabaya. They admitted that they were no longer able to deal with the rise in the numbers of COVID-19 patients,” the 31-year-old freelancer told TOC correspondent via WhatsApp.
In some of the hospitals, patients had to wait longer at the emergency room due to the overcrowded isolation rooms, the deputy head of the Surabaya’s Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) task force on COVID-19 handling, Arief Bakhtiar, told Tempo on Wednesday (27 May).
The University of Airlangga Hospital (RSUA) has temporarily closed treatment for COVID-19 patients due to limited number of beds available upon treating more than 100 patients.
“More than 100 COVID-19 patients are being treated at RSUA, and the numbers are growing day by day. Due to the limited numbers of beds, we have to cease the operation temporarily,” noted Professor Mohammad Nasih, the university’s rector.