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What's Fuelling the Rise in Indonesia's Covid-19 Cases?

June 18, 2020, 10.45 PM

JAKARTA, – The Covid-19 pandemic continues to ravage Indonesia even as the country enters the second, less tight Large Scale Social Restrictions phase known as the New Normal.

The Covid-19 task force announced the country now has 42,762 cases after a record additional 1,331 cases have been found nationwide over the past 24 hours as of June 18.

Indonesia's figure is the highest in ASEAN, surpassing Singapore’s 41,743 cases. Officials said the number includes 2,339 fatalities, as well as 16.798 patients who were confirmed to have recovered.

They said the positive results have been revealed after they tested 20,650 samples June 18. To date, officials tested 580,522 samples from a total of 358,659 people.

A member of the task force, UNS hospital epidemiologist Tonang Dwi Ardyanto attributed the rise to a number of factors.

1. Relaxation of rules

Tonang noted that increased social interaction following the more flexible application of the New Normal rules inevitably increased the chances of infection. Yet he realized that it is a dilemma for the government.

“If we put a brake on all activities, including economic activities, then the country grinds to a halt,” he said on Thursday, June 18. “But if we proceed, the level of infections might surge uncontrollably.”

He added that the government has yet to find the balance between these two possibilities.

2. Unclear government stages and criteria

Tonang said that this balance can only be struck by decisive leadership and clear policies by the government. "If we relax the rules and find the outcome favourable, then we can go further,” he added.

Also read: Here's What the Mall Might Look Like under Strict Health Protocols in Indonesia

“But if the outcome is unfavourable, we can tighten [the rules], for example,” he said. “If these policies have been clear and conveyed from the start, they can provide the public with clearer guidelines for the daily activities.”

Antara Foto/FB Anggoro

3. Aggressive contact tracing

Tonang believed that aggressive contact tracing is counterproductive to Indonesia’s fight against Covid-19, as it actually indicated a rise in cases.

“The number of increasing polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is hand in hand with a decrease in positive cases,” said Tonang.

“The percentage of positive cases are currently 11.5 percent. Ideally, more PCR tests will show the rate of positive go down to five percent or less,” he noted.

“However if the PCR rate and the number of cases increased, it shows that there are more cases than we realized.”

4. Flouting the rules

Most of all, Tonang attributed the increase in Covid-19 in Indonesia to public disregard for heath protocols. “Public disobedience [of health protocols] can be attributed to insufficient efforts at orienting them to the new rules,” he said.

Also read: Follow Health Protocols or Face Up to Rp. 50M Fine, Jakarta Businesses Owners Told

Tonang urged the government to refrain from cracking down. “Society is diverse, so they have different levels of understanding and awareness.”

“If the government does not act without a clear guidelines, their drive to raise awareness will also come up short.”

(Writer:Dandy Bayu Bramasta/Editor : Sari Hardiyanto)


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