The Jakarta Post
It has taken more than a month and 200 deaths, but Jakarta finally received permission to implement largescale social restrictions (PSBB) starting Friday, April 10, following the Health Ministry’s approval of the measure on Tuesday to curb the contagion’s spread in the capital, the epicenter of Indonesia’s COVID-19 outbreak.
His hands previously tied by the central government, Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan had been preparing penalties aimed to enforce social distancing on public transportation and in public spaces, and to ban large gatherings of more than five people, including religious events and weddings.
The PSBB, however, still leaves private vehicles largely unregulated, and private vehicles can still travel in and out of Jakarta. Public buses and minivans may only operate vehicles that are half full, but no restrictions have been placed on intercity trips.
Still, this is a good start to flattening the curve of COVID-19 infection. And because Jakarta is the capital, the central government can directly observe the PSBB “in action” over the next 14 days to see how effective it is in the war on COVID-19. If the number of cases and deaths continues to climb after the first period of the PSBB, the government and Jakarta should take bolder measures.
Concerns over the economy should not obstruct this effort. In an improvement from previous weeks, the government and Jakarta have now put together financial relief programs to protect the poor.
In addition to expanding the existing safety net programs like the Family Hope Program (PKH) and the noncash food assistance (BPNT) program, the government has announced direct cash assistance (BLT) to 4.1 million poor people in Greater Jakarta who are not on any of the existing schemes. The cash assistance is intended to help cover their income loss as a result of the social restrictions. The government also plans to provide food assistance over the next two weeks.
Meanwhile, the Jakarta administration has prepared a similar cash assistance scheme for distributing to another 1.2 million unregistered poor people in the city.
These financial relief programs, however, may still not be enough to fulfill the state’s obligations under the 2018 Health Quarantine Law.
In the first two weeks of Jakarta’s social distancing policy, the Jakarta Manpower and Transmigration Agency reported that more than 130,000 workers had been furloughed while over 30,000 were laid off. In the event of continuing transmissions, an extension to the PSBB period will inevitably put more people out of work.
But there is no less painful measure in the fight against the virus. It is thus the responsibility of authorities and all Jakartans to ensure that neither public resources nor individual sacrifices are in vain.
Let us commit to physical distancing, let us test more people, and let us provide the sick with the best possible treatment. Let us protect our health professionals to save them, ourselves and the nation. If the PSBB succeeds in Jakarta, it can certainly amplify the efforts that we, the people, are making in the rest of the country.
Let us beat the virus together.