JAKARTA: The Jakarta governor’s sudden decision to reimpose coronavirus-related restrictions amid surging infection figures and a looming collapse of the healthcare system has been welcomed by medical workers, but is already facing some opposition from the central government.
Governor Anies Baswedan on Wednesday announced that the city was returning to large-scale social restrictions from the beginning of next week “just like it was at the beginning of the pandemic,” as its already overburdened intensive care units would be forced to stop receiving patients otherwise.
According to data from the Indonesian Medical Association, Jakarta is one of the country's region’s where COVID-19 fatalities among doctors are the highest.
“The governor made the right decision that we have to pull the emergency brake, and this is also shock therapy for residents who have been flouting health protocols,” Tri Yunis Miko Wahyono, an epidemiologist at the University of Indonesia, told Arab News on Friday. “We have seen the case positivity rate of more than 10 percent in the past three weeks, closer to its 14 percent highest in April.”
Indonesia on Friday reported 3,737 new cases of COVID-19, with 964 in Jakarta, bringing the national tally to 210,940.
More than half of the cases are on Indonesia’s most populated island of Java, where Jakarta is located. While the country’s infection curve is already rising sharply, there are concerns that the actual number of cases in the country of about 270 million is much higher.
Irma Hidayani, public health consultant and founder of Lapor COVID-19 (Report COVID-19), said the group had received information that infection clusters at offices were unreported.
New infection clusters have also emerged at industrial zones located in Jakarta’s satellite cities. The World Health Organization (WHO) in its Wednesday report said that 541 cases were recorded at 22 factories in Bekasi, an industrial area on the outskirts of Jakarta.
As most of Jakarta’s surrounding regions, like Bekasi, are administratively part of West Java province, West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil announced on Thursday that he would impose community-based social restrictions in selected regions.
“Jakarta and its satellite cities are Indonesia’s economic hub, therefore its measures to respond to the outbreak serve as the benchmark for other regions,” Nuri Ikawati, a researcher at the Institute for Demographic and Poverty Studies, told Arab News. “The high movement of people going into and out of Jakarta is also a factor that increases imported cases in other regions.”
She added that the plan required the central government’s support to go as smoothly as it should. But the government has already opposed some of Jakarta's restrictions as they could further hit the country’s economy.
As the capital city's governor announced that people should return to working from home, Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto said a day later that government offices would be functioning as normal, while the private sector should implement a flexible working arrangement, keeping some employees at the office and allowing some to work from home.
He also contradicted Baswedan's statement that Jakarta was facing a shortage of hospital beds and said the government would be using three- and two-star hotels in the city as isolation wards for people testing positive.
But his statement has not convinced experts.
“It would not be enough to just assign hotels as emergency hospital wards,” Ikawati added. “We would also need supporting healthcare infrastructure and medical workers, but we already have a low doctor-to-patient ratio.”