JAKARTA, INDONESIA — The COVID-19 pandemic has yet to disappear across nations worldwide, and Indonesia is no exception. As of Tuesday (15 September), there were 225,030 confirmed cases with 8,965 deaths and 161,065 cases in recovery.
The country has seen a surge in the new numbers of infections, going as high as over 2,000 a day since the end of July, thanks to the increase in the testing capacity and the relaxation of social restrictions that enabled public facilities to reopen within the limits of strict standard operating procedures.
“The rise in the new confirmed COVID-19 cases is due to the increase in the numbers of swab test (PCR) carried out, especially in the capital. Ironically, people tend to ignore health protocols by not wearing masks and hanging out [in public places],” epidemiologist at the University of Indonesia Tri Yunis Miko Wahyono told TOC on Tuesday.
Jakarta claimed that the numbers of PCR test it conducted had exceeded the standard of the World Health Organization (WHO)—which is 0.1 per cent of a region’s population.
Governor Anies Baswedan said that the city has tested 732,000 people as of 11 September
Liputan6 reported that on a national level, as many as 1.49 million swabs or PCR tests had been carried out as of 11 September.
Unfortunately, not all regions can follow Jakarta’s footsteps due to smaller laboratories’ capacities and supporting facilities.
“Indonesia has 514 regencies, and not all have biosafety labs for conducting PCR tests. The construction of such a lab is quite costly,” Dr Tri said.
As of 8 June, Malaysia recorded the highest numbers of PCR test in ASEAN by having 618,360 specimens tested, official data showed as cited by Lokadata.
Jakarta’s compromised PSBB: Health vs economic impacts
Jakarta entered its second day of “emergency brake” or social restriction (PSBB) on Tuesday after seeing a drastic spike in the numbers of new COVID-19 cases.
Despite being criticized by some of the ministers, the newly-enforced PSBB was not as strict as the first one implemented in April.
It is, however, tougher than the transition period.
Under the present measures, malls are still allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity. However, entertainment hubs and tourists attractions are instructed to remain closed. Other sectors considered non-essential are permitted to operate at 25 per cent capacity.
“We must be careful. If this emergency brake fails due to lack of discipline, all hospitals wards and isolation rooms will be full,” Dr Tri warned.
The COVID-19 Mitigation Task Force said that all ICUs in 20 hospitals designated for COVID-19 patients in Jakarta have been fully occupied, Detik reported.
Meanwhile, many Jakarta denizens also worry about the economic impact of the PSBB on the city, given that the capital is a financial hub and contributes around 17.7 per cent of the national output.
“Jakarta accounts for almost 18 per cent of the national growth. Do not forget too that the social restriction in Jakarta also affects the satellite cities such as Depok, Bekasi, Bogor, and South Tangerang. If it is combined, the contribution to the national economy will reach 25 per cent,” INDEF economist Fadhil Hasan told TOC on Monday.
The likely risk of recession
The pandemic has severely harmed various industries such as manufacturing, hospitality, and tourism. The movement mobility in Jakarta will likely trigger a recession in the third quarter.
In the second quarter, Indonesia’s economy contracted 5.32 per cent. The Financial Service Authority (OJK) estimated that the economy would shrink 2 per cent in the third quarter, Bisnis cited.
“We know that the outbreak has severely hurt all industrial sectors, and it happens around the world. In a developed nation like Singapore, the growth contracted around 41.8 per cent in Q2 as it depends on export.
“When all its export destinations imposed lockdown, the economy fell. Indonesia and India, at least, can be supported by domestic consumption thanks to both countries’ huge populations,” Mr Fadhil added.
Mr Fadhil hailed the government’s efforts to minimize the impact of the pandemic by distributing subsidies for employees with salaries under 5 million Rupiah.
“Maybe there should also be financial support for companies aimed at avoiding massive layoffs. Yeah, there are tax incentives, but how can they pay taxes if they are forced to close their business due to the pandemic?” Mr Fadhil stated.
Will the economy recover after the vaccine is developed?
While the answer appears to be promising, it may take time, as vaccines must be tested for their efficacy and safety.
“If the efficacy is 60 per cent, it is good. It will be better if the efficacy is between 70 and 80 per cent. As Indonesia is conducting a trial of Sinovac vaccine in partnership with PT Bio Farma, I have yet to receive the information about the efficacy,” Dr Tri said.
“Do not forget about safety. When there are some side effects to four people, at least, we question about the safety of the vaccine,” the epidemiologist added.
From an economic point of view, Mr Fadhil said that the vaccine’s availability could boost market optimism, adding that health mitigation determines the pace of economic recovery as well.
“We must make sure that the pandemic is handled properly. Then, the government must prepare digital transformation in the modern era and that all basic needs for people are fulfilled,” Mr Fadhil concluded.