Not a minor problem: Children in Indonesia most vulnerable to COVID-19

This photo taken on May 20, 2020 shows elementary school students (R) greeting their teacher Henrikus Suroto (L) as he arrives to teach them at their homes in Magelang, Central Java, after schools were closed due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. (AFP)
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Updated 15 June 2020

Not a minor problem: Children in Indonesia most vulnerable to COVID-19

  • Schools remain shut to address issue which has affected thousands

JAKARTA: Schools in Indonesia will not be opening anytime soon, with 94 percent of students across the country living in areas with a moderate to high risk of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections, and over 6,000 children said to have been exposed to the disease.

In a virtual press conference on Monday, Education Minister Nadiem Makarim said that the school year would start on schedule in July, but students would have to study from home, adding that only schools in the green zone, or regions where the infection cases are low, could reopen for the new academic year.

“Only six percent of our students live in the green zone — 85 regions and cities — where schools can gradually reopen. But they will need their parents’ consent to go back studying in school,” Makarim said.

The announcement came after the Indonesian Pediatric Society (IDAI) advised in late May against the reopening of schools at least until December this year after regional governments across Indonesia started to ease some restrictions and reopen the economy.

“They need to clearly explain to the parents that their children will still be exposed to the risk of infections. Assigning zones can be very dynamic — today a region may be a green zone, but it could change anytime,” IDAI Chairman Aman Pulungan told Arab News.

“We can consider reopening schools when there are no new COVID-19 cases in a month, and  no movement of people in and out of the region.”

As of Monday, there were 1,017 new infections and 64 deaths reported in the country, increasing the national total to 39,294 cases and 2,198 deaths.

About 3,000 people below the age of 18 had contracted the virus, 7.8 percent of the national tally, while around 3,400 minors were being treated, according to data from the COVID-19 national task force.

The data also showed that 550 minors had died, out of which 353 were under five years old.

“The number of children who contracted COVID-19 and who died from it continues to increase every week. We should not let even one child die,” Pulungan said, adding that an average of four percent of children who tested positive for the virus died every week, and that the figure of those who had died while undergoing treatment was even higher.

Even before the pandemic, Indonesian children were already exposed to several health issues such as malnutrition, with the World Health Organization (WHO) listing Indonesia among countries with the highest prevalence of stunted growth. In 2019, the prevalence was 27 percent, still well above the WHO standard of 20 percent.

“The comorbidities found in adults are found in children, too, but many Indonesian children also suffer from diarrhea, dengue fever, tuberculosis, and malnutrition,” Pulungan said.

Data from the Ministry of Health showed that 17.7 percent of Indonesian children below five years of age suffered from malnutrition, making their immune systems even more at risk from COVID-19.

“The government needs to beef up its efforts in preventing children from contracting the coronavirus and treating those exposed to the disease,” Susanto, chairman of the Indonesian Commission for Child Protection, told Arab News.


Daesh-inspired attacks by inmates prompt UK prison terror review

Updated 4 min 30 sec ago

Daesh-inspired attacks by inmates prompt UK prison terror review

  • Prisoners accessed Daesh propaganda ahead of a knife attack on a prison officer
  • Experts warn that lives are at risk if the government does not change its strategy on terrorism in prison

 

LONDON: The British government has launched a review into the way terrorists are handled inside jails amid concerns that prison officers are at risk from Daesh-inspired terror attacks, according to The Independent.

The review comes after two inmates were jailed earlier this month for the attempted murder in January of a prison officer using improvised weapons and fake suicide vests — the latest of four terror attacks carried out by incarcerated or recently released prisoners in the past year.

The two men behind the January attacks accessed Daesh propaganda in jail. One assailant — Brusthom Ziamani — was known to be a terrorism risk after originally being jailed for plotting to behead a soldier.

His accomplice, Baz Hockton, was radicalized inside prison, where he was jailed for a series of random knife attacks.

The Ministry of Justice said it has safeguards in place to prevent and monitor extremism, but neither convict had raised concerns and Ziamani was about to be given a “certificate of achievement” for complying with a deradicalization program for eight months.

There are currently a record number of people in British prisons for terror offences, and three-quarters of those are categorized as Islamist extremists, 19 percent are far-right, with six percent categorized elsewhere.

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READ MORE: Jailed terrorists fake UK deradicalization schemes to gain early release: Report

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Experts have warned that the planned review must lead to urgent action, or else risk the death of a prison officer at the hands of extremists.

Ian Acheson, a former prison governor who carried out the government’s 2016 review of Islamist extremism in jails, said he feared that a prison officer could be taken hostage and executed.

“I’m not at all satisfied from the evidence that we’ve seen that the prison service is on top of this problem,” he told The Independent. “We’ve come within millimeters of a prison officer being murdered by a terrorist in prison.

“Terrorism Act prisoners are very small in number but the harm they can cause to society is huge, and after countless failures of intelligence and security inside prisons we ought to have got on top of this now.

“There is something very wrong at the moment inside our high-security prisons and it would be deluded to suggest otherwise.”

A prison officer working in a high-security prison previously told The Independent that jails were being “run on chaos” and that staff did not have the capacity to monitor and tackle radicalization.

He said there was “no control” over extremist inmates in prison, adding: “I don’t see any end to the attacks whatsoever, those ones that come in with an extremist view leave with a stronger one.”