Widodo’s announcement by President Joko “Jokowi” on Monday about the first two confirmed cases of Indonesians who contracted the coronavirus novel that causes COVID-19 in the country was highly anticipated, however it will still have a number of consequences.
First, the announcement by the head of state implies the government’s intention to show not only the national public but also the international community that takes the epidemic seriously. The government, in return, demands public confidence in the management of the virus, which has affected over 60 countries worldwide and has caused over 3,000 victims.
Second, the President’s statement equates to an official declaration of war on the virus. The debate had arisen that Indonesia was ill-prepared for the epidemic given that it had not detected any infections more than a month after the virus started to spread from the Chinese city of Wuhan.
With the announcement of the first infections on home soil, people are concerned if the two people who test positive for the virus are just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, the government will now track down who the 64-year-old woman and her 31-year-old daughter had been in contact with to find out more infections.
The two residents of Depok, West Java, a city south of Jakarta, had been in contact with a Japanese citizen who had tested positive for Malaysia on February 27 after visiting Indonesia in early February. Health authorities discovered the first two infections even after conducting contact tracking mechanisms.
Third, now that the virus has infected people in the country with the possibility of multiplying through human-to-human transmissions, it is time for the government to focus on treating infected people and minimizing the spread of the virus. The Ministry of Health now takes command and will coordinate national measures to win the battle against COVID-19.
The emphasis on health measures should be translated into the allocation of more funding and the use of all resources available to the government for the fight against coronavirus. Attempts to “exploit” the epidemic, as evident in the recent stimulus to revive tourism, will diverge from efforts to save vulnerable people, disrespecting human lives. Obviously the virus has had an impact on the economy, but the failure to respond to COVID-19 will be more devastating as it would further influence global confidence, including that of investors, in Indonesia.
The government has shown its readiness by designating over 100 hospitals across the archipelago to address the disease. This should and will be followed by the deployment of health workers, who have to race against time to protect the country from a health crisis. Coordination between central and local governments will be crucial in this regard, in particular in disseminating suggestions for protection, including how to live a healthy life to support one’s immune system.
Indonesia should not hesitate to learn or seek assistance from other countries to win this battle, although we have survived previous outbreaks such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and middle eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS), which are part of the same family. by COVID-19.