Coronavirus Indonesia: can Jakarta get its raging Covid-19 outbreak under control?

Since Indonesia’s capital Jakarta reimposed social-distancing restrictions last Monday, motorcycle ride-hailing driver Yosef has seen his daily income decrease by more than 80 per cent – some days, he only takes home around 50,000 rupiah (US$3.40).
Under the stricter regulations, known locally by the acronym PSBB, most workplaces have to keep the bulk of their employees at home, and while shopping centres can remain open, no dining in is allowed. Residents caught outside without masks will be tasked with social work or receive a fine that starts from 250,000 rupiah.
The restrictions will be in place until Sunday, but could be extended until October 11 if there is a significant increase in the number of Covid-19 cases – a possibility that deeply worries Yosef.
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“Do not extend it again – pity those from the lower middle class,” said the 38-year-old father of two, adding that he had already borrowed money from his neighbours to get by.
Seven months after Indonesia reported its first cases, the country is struggling with mounting infections. It reported 4,071 new cases on Tuesday, bringing its total to 252,923, with 9,837 fatalities – the highest death toll in Southeast Asia.
Some 10 million people live in overcrowded Jakarta, a figure that goes up to 30 million when the metropolitan area surrounding the city is included. With a quarter of all cases in Indonesia, it is the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak across the sprawling archipelago’s 34 provinces.
While other countries have managed to slow the spread of infections with partial lockdowns – only to see a resurgence in cases when they reopened – Indonesia has not yet passed the peak of the first wave, according to Mahesa Paranadipa Maikel, the chairperson of the Indonesia Health Law Society, an industry body of medical workers and legal experts.
“The reasons range from half-hearted implementation of policies by the central and local governments (to) public figures and officials not following health protocols. So the community is apathetic too,” Mahesa said.
The raging outbreak has strained Jakarta’s health care system – the city administration earlier this month said isolation rooms at 67 Covid-19 referral hospitals were 77 per cent occupied, while intensive care units were 83 per cent full.
Indonesia’s health ministry has confirmed there were 302 infections among its staff as of last Friday, the largest cluster in the capital, while religious affairs minister Fachrul Razi and the country’s former ambassador to the United States, Dino Patti Djalal, have also tested positive. Jakarta city administration secretary Saefullah last week became the latest senior official to die of the disease.
Indonesian netizens have lamented the continued rise in cases, with some criticising President Joko Widodo’s administration for easing earlier restrictions too quickly on the back of a tanking economy. Strict rules imposed in April were loosened in June as the country’s GDP shrank 5.32 per cent in the second quarter, its first contraction since 1999.
With unemployment expected to rise to 12.7 million next year, the government has set aside 695.2 trillion rupiah for health care and economic stimulus for households.
Civil servant Anton Febriawan, who works as a public relations officer at a financial institution, said government departments were only allowed to have 25 per cent of staff in the office at a given time. He is working from his home in Bogor, some 55km south of Jakarta, but colleagues working in IT or at counters to serve the public have been going to the office.
“Jakartans became less disciplined when the restrictions were relaxed,” Anton said.
TANKING ECONOMY
Amid calls for health minister Terawan Agus Putranto to step down, Widodo has instructed his trusted aide Luhut Pandjaitan, the coordinating minister for maritime affairs and investment, to get the situation in nine of the hardest-hit provinces – including the capital – under control in two weeks. Police and military personnel have been deployed around Jakarta to ens…