JAKARTA, INDONESIA — The COVID-19 pandemic has gripped the world for a year, claiming lives and harming industries globally — and Indonesia is no exception.
Indonesia announced its first two COVID-19 cases on 2 March 2020. As of 3 March 2021, Indonesia recorded 1,353,834 cases with 6,808 new cases.
There are five key points from one year of the COVID-19 pandemic in Indonesia as summarised by TOC.
Social restrictions vs lockdown
The Indonesian government has taken several measures to minimise the widespread of the COVID-19 infection, which has similar symptoms to the common flu.
Numerous social restrictions have been imposed and extended many times to control the disease, even though some opined that people are back to normal activities as if there is no pandemic.
“If we go outside, you can see that people are returning to normal activities. They hang out on the weekends, causing congestion in Jakarta’s business district,” a university student told TOC.
When many countries decided to slap a tight lockdown, Indonesia took a measure called large-scale social restriction (PSBB) which includes the closure of schools and other essential businesses and the banning of social gatherings.
PSBB then turns into the implementation of the community’s activity restriction or PPKM—which is also similar to PSBB but PPKM enlarges the percentage of work-from-home arrangements to 75 per cent.
The use of different terms often confuses Indonesians, reflecting the government’s reluctance to impose a strict lockdown in the first two or three months of the pandemic.
Public policy expert Agus Pambagio told CNN Indonesia that the PPKM replacing PSBB causes an overlapping in the implementation of the regulation at a regional level.
“If lockdown had been implemented in March 2020, at least for a month in Java, the situation would have been under control (referring to the number of new COVID-19 cases), now it is too late,” Agus said.
Jakarta was the first region that imposed a large-scale social restriction in April. Other provinces then followed suit.
The increase in the testing capacity, but contact tracing ratio is below the standard
Data from the COVID-19 Task Force showed that Indonesia’s testing capacity reached 96.35 per cent of the target set by the World Health Organization (WHO) as of December last year.
However, contact tracing—aimed at finding people who have contacts with COVID-19 patients for early detection—remains a challenge in Indonesia. The sooner the people who have contact with COVID-19 patients/suspected cases are traced and tested, the more quickly the infection is controlled.
A Jakarta resident, whose sister was tested positive for COVID-19, admitted that her brother-in-law’s families are reluctant to have a PCR test.
“My sister — who was that time under treatment — left the TRACE column blank as she is not sure whether her parents-in-law want to have a test. But my brother-in-law was COVID-19 negative,” she told TOC last January.
In comparison, the WHO standard is 1:30, meaning one COVID-19 patient should have at least 30 close contacts.
Vaccination rolls out as hoax related to vaccines continues to spread
Indonesia resumed its vaccination programmes for medical workers in January 2021, followed by public workers, traditional market sellers, educators, and the elderly.
As the vaccination programme rolls out, misleading information on vaccine continues to spread on social media platforms.
Several people in a village in Alor, East Nusa Tenggara, escaped to a nearby forest as they were afraid of being injected.
Hoaxes related to the China-made vaccine Sinovac — used in the government’s free vaccination programme — continue to flood social media.
One of the most common false information is that the vaccine contains a cell from African primates.
Many of the elderly trusted misleading information on vaccination in a health training centre in South Jakarta, causing a long queue.
Epidemiologist Pandu Riono stated that all information on vaccination should be coordinated at a neighbourhood unit (Rukun Warga/RW) level.
Some business sectors are the hardest hit by the pandemic
The pandemic has severely hit several business sectors, such as transportation, tourism, and manufacture. The agricultural sector is the most resilient as demand for vegetables and fruits has risen during the quarantine.
The statistics agency revealed that the agricultural industry grew 1.75 per cent last year, a bit slower than the previous year. Total exports in this industry increased by 14.03 per cent, official data showed.
The government has distributed numerous aid packages, from cash direct aid to financial aid for small and medium enterprises as well as aid for those who are affected by the pandemic.
Social affairs minister arrested for graft case
The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) named former social affairs minister, Juliari Batubara a suspect in the corruption case related to the distribution of social aid package during the pandemic.
The graft case surrounding the distribution of social aid package made many Indonesians received low-quality goods.
A Depok resident told TOC that she received several cans of low-quality sardines and the rice has an unpleasant smell.
“We only received the package twice. What we got was so bad,” she told TOC, adding that the aid was not distributed evenly.
One year after the new coronavirus case was found, Indonesia as well as other countries are still fighting to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.