Never Ending Pandemic?

Covid-19 has changed people’s lives. From the first reported case of the virus, until the spread of Covid-19 around the world, the world has suffered debilitating losses. Most governments have since then implemented a lockdown system with the aim of stopping the spread of this virus. 

In Indonesia, since early March 2020 when the first Covid-19 patients were reported, the government has made various efforts to suppress the spread of the Covid-19. However, the number of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia continues to increase. Many have asked; what efforts have been made by the government? And why are the positive cases of COVID-19 not declining as rapidly as the government hoped? The following is a brief explanation of the progress of COVID-19 in Indonesia as well as the government’s efforts in tackling this pandemic.

Around the time that the first cases of COVID-19 began emerging, the Indonesian government was still accepting people from abroad. One may suppose that at that time the government didn’t suspect the severity of this virus. From the first COVID-19 patient in Indonesia, it was found that the patient had close contact with a COVID-19 patient who came from Japan. Initially, this first patient only had a normal cough, so after going to the hospital she was allowed to go home. However, when the chest pain persisted, she was finally hospitalized.

Upon being admitted to the hospital, it turned out that her cough was getting worse with shortness of breath. A few days later, she received news from her friend from Japan that he had tested positive for COVID-19. Shortly after, the first Indonesian patient tested positive for COVID-19 along with her mother. With the discovery of the two COVID-19 patients, the government has made various efforts, starting from isolating patients’ homes, providing care to patients and warning the public of the effects of COVID-19. After a month since the discovery of the first COVID-19 case, the positive number of COVID-19 continued to increase, causing the government to set a policy of Large-scale Social Restrictions.

PSBB (Pembatasan Sosial Berskala Besar) or Large-scale Social Restrictions are suspensions set on social activities in an area infected with COVID-19 in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In short, PSBB is a regulation that requires society to avoid crowding activities and potentially violate health protocols. All teaching and learning activities, from kindergarten to lectures are  done online. Likewise with work that can be done online, is done from home. Initially, the PSBB was estimated to last for approximately two weeks, but in fact the PSBB continued for several months. This happened because the positive number of COVID-19 in Indonesia increased exponentially despite restrictions set in place. 

Furthermore, the Indonesian government also urged the general public to implement health protocols in accordance with WHO directives; such as maintaining a distance of about two metres, wearing surgical masks to stop airborne particles, washing hands with soap, regularly using hand sanitizers and avoiding crowds. In addition, the government also issued a regulation for a temporary ban on foreign citizens from entering or leaving Indonesia.

After the enforcement of the PSBB, the government then issued a new regulation, namely the PPKM Darurat (Pemberlakuan Pembatasan Kegiatan Masyarakat Darurat) or the Emergency Enforcement of Restrictions on Community Activities. PPKM was carried out by the central government for regions that have high positive cases of COVID-19. Whilst the PSBB policy has been implemented since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, the PPKM Darurat was implemented relatively late, in early July 2021. 

PPKM Darurat is carried out mainly in the Java and Bali islands, because these two areas still have a fairly high number of Covid-19 patients. This is because these two areas have a fairly high population density and community mobility is still high. Initially, this PPKM Daryrat was enforced for July 3-20, but it now has been extended again until August 3, 2021.

  1. Provision of social donation

The government had also provided donations for the basic needs of society in the form of money. This social donation was aimed at families of lower middle class standing. The government was aware that the implementation of PSBB and PPKM will affect the society’s economy, thus, this action was very appropriate. However, what is very unfortunate is that many took advantage of this opportunity to fulfill their own desires. Funds that should have been received by the poor, were corrupted by irresponsible officers in charge of handling this social donation program, causing great economic stress and diverting funds from those who needed it most.

  1. Provision of free vaccines for the whole community

In addition to the efforts that have been made above, the Indonesian government also provided free vaccines for all Indonesian citizens. After several countries conducted research on COVID-19 and developed a vaccine, the Indonesian government made efforts to obtain vaccine stocks that would be distributed and administered to the general public free of charge. Several vaccines used in Indonesia included; Sinovac Vaccine, Sinopharm Vaccine, Novavax Vaccine, AstraZeneca Vaccine, Moderna Vaccine, Pfizer and BioNtech Vaccines. The first target after the vaccine enters Indonesia are medical personnel who are at the forefront of handling Covid-19 cases. The second is from among the state civil apparatus, and following that, the general public.

  1. Why are Covid-19 cases still high?

COVID-19 cases in Indonesia are quite high, especially in the Java-Bali area, which requires the government to carry out PPKM for these two regions. Why are the positive cases of COVID-19 still high? First, public awareness of health protocols is still lacking, especially among people with lower-middle economic conditions. The Emergency PPKM carried out by the government certainly has had an impact on the community’s economy, especially for those who are economically weak. This forces society to continue their activities outside home with minimal health protocols. Maybe they are already wearing masks, but they are still active in crowds, increasing the potential for COVID-19 transmission. The second reason being that society continues to underestimate the COVID-19. There are still many people who hold events with large crowds. For example, in weddings that are still carried out by inviting large numbers of guests. In addition, there are still many Indonesian people who conduct Eid al-Fitr gatherings. While positive cases had decreased previously, they have now increased again because of rules around social gatherings becoming lax. This means that an emergency PPKM must be held until early August. The third is that there are still many people who are afraid to get the vaccine or do not even believe that vaccines can create herd immunity for Indonesia. Usually, people like this do not understand the purpose of getting vaccinations, therefore, many hope that the government can educate the public, so that society can understand the importance of getting the covid-19 vaccine.

So far, the government’s efforts to suppress Covid-19 cases that have been carried out have been working relatively well. However, it would have been all for nothing if the Indonesian public or other parties did not adhere to the existing regulations. Economic problems that arise as a result of government regulations should also be considered again. As a society, the effort that we can do to suppress the COVID-19 cases is to always implement the health protocol seriously. Always remind the people around us to maintain health, cleanliness, and stay away from crowds. Not only in Indonesia, many other countries are also still battling COVID-19. Therefore, let us take care of each other by always obeying the rules, receiving vaccines and maintaining health protocols.

Dina

SURABAYA / INDONESIA

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