Dear Mr. President,
I hope this letter finds you well, or at the very least, healthy. This is a trying time for the country and for the world at large. Given my unique background of epidemiology, science and business, I feel obligated to voice my opinions on the COVID-19 pandemic.
In summary, Mr. President, here are a few things I would do, were I in your shoes.
1. Create a government-managed fact check website, much like the United States’ FactCheck.Org. On that website, allow citizens to report potential hoaxes.
2. Show extensively through the media what happens to hoax instigators caught by law enforcement.
3. Make the penalty for hoax-spreading heavier on the financial retribution than prison time. The fines collected, however small, can be used to fund efforts to control the virus. Instead of prison time, consider sending hoaxers to work at a mask factory as a form of community service.
On general news:
1. Request news outlets to soften their approach in delivering news. Spread alertness and awareness, not panic. The very least they can do is to change the background music to something less intimidating. Anxiety and stress reduce the immune system, which is not helpful to anyone.
2. Request that news outlets not only report on the outbreak but educate even more, though several are already doing this. Education is key to winning this war and to helping the public see the big picture.
On the trading of fake and illegal goods:
1. Detain and fine people who abuse desperate needs as an opportunity to sell goods or services with false claims, for example, those who sell 1-ply masks as 3-ply masks, and those who sell vitamins claiming to prevent or cure the COVID-19 infection. Use the funds gathered to help check the pandemic.
2. Educate people on identifying fake news; this can be done together with the fact-checking website. Also, encourage surgical mask users to cut their mask in half before disposal. This is to prevent sales of used masks in the market.
On medical treatment:
1. The current death rate is too high, which is one primary reason why our stock market crashed and why there is widespread panic. We need external medical consultation. This is not the time to be proud. Call back home Indonesian citizens who went to study medicine abroad, and give them a license to practice medicine in Indonesia with relaxed requirements.
2. Enlist much more help from prominent private hospitals, especially in Jakarta, which has seen most of the cases so far.
3. Gather a team of prominent epidemiologists and public health officials to help contain the viral. Make projections, anticipate needs and losses.
Mr. President, I wish you the best of luck, and I will be happy to assist if and when needed. This is World War 3, but with all countries on the same side, fighting against a common enemy, COVID-19. There needs to be a worldwide call to arms. Spare no expense; take swift action. He who hesitates is lost.
Mr. President, when all this is over, let’s take a walk and talk about our education system.
General manager of cosmetics firm PT. Winida Ayu Lestari
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.