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.

Philippines probes deadly police shooting of soldiers

Updated 11 min 49 sec ago

Philippines probes deadly police shooting of soldiers

  • Plainclothes soldiers were in pursuit of ‘bomb makers and suicide bombers’ from the Abu Sayyaf militant group

MANILA: Philippine authorities are investigating the deaths of four soldiers shot by police in the country’s restive south, with the defense minister vowing Thursday to “get to the bottom” of the incident.
The plainclothes soldiers were in pursuit of “bomb makers and suicide bombers” from the Abu Sayyaf militant group when they were attacked by police in the Muslim-majority province of Sulu on Monday, the army has said.
Army chief Gilbert Gapay has accused the nine officers involved of murdering the men, while Philippine National Police has described the shooting as a “misencounter.”
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the shootings were “a very unfortunate incident,” adding that the dead soldiers “were just doing their jobs.”
“We don’t want this to escalate. We will get to the bottom of this,” he said.
The country’s National Bureau of Investigation was probing the incident, and Lorenzana said the findings should be released soon.
The army has accused the police of firing on the soldiers even after they identified themselves as members of the military.
The officers have been detained while the investigation is under way, said Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano.
President Rodrigo Duterte will visit police and military commanders in the south, his spokesman Harry Roque said, without specifying when.
Abu Sayyaf is based in the south and has engaged in bombings as well as kidnappings of Western tourists and missionaries for ransom since the early 1990s.
They also have ties to Daesh militants seeking to set up a caliphate in Southeast Asia.