The Jakarta Post
The capital may see a steady decline in cases of the dreaded coronavirus by early June, according to some informed estimates, which has led Governor Anies Baswedan to announce the extension of Jakarta’s large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) until June 4.
Anies said the decision followed findings by epidemiologists that the infection reproductive ratio, or the expected number of COVID-19 cases directly generated by one case, was on the decline from four in mid-March to 1.11 as of May 17.
We should support the PSBB extension, rather than a relaxation, in Jakarta and other hotspots, while reminding the central and regional governments to step up measures to ensure the required protocols to keep everybody safe are consistently enforced.
Intensive campaigns asking the public to participate in the concerted efforts to contain the virus are urgent given the repeated evidence of lax enforcement of the PSBB even right under Governor Anies’ nose—such as the packed Tanah Abang market near the governor’s office and residence, close to the “Ring 1” high security zone around the Presidential Palace recently.
The days ahead of the Idul Fitri holidays, expected to fall on May 24-25, and the 10 days to June 4, still carry great risk.
Anies has asked people to stay home and refrain from visiting family for traditional Idul Fitri gatherings even within Greater Jakarta. But it will take much more than Anies’ warning to snap millions out of the annual instinct of the traditional religious celebration.
Pass any grocery store and it is unlikely that the store owners or managers are applying physical distancing, as many shoppers prepare for the Islamic post-fasting festival, but only with extended family. On the border with Jakarta the crowded Ciledug shopping mall had to be temporarily sealed off by the Tangerang municipal authorities in Banten on Tuesday.
Jakartans therefore cannot afford complacency regarding the apparent declining trend of COVID-19 infections, simply because East Java is poised to become the country’s epicenter — thanks to the wave of homecoming migrants including those from Greater Jakarta and from overseas.
Adopting India’s style of harsh police behavior is not an option; though the National Police are still largely on the right track — trying to educate motorists who fail to show they are on urgent business and seizing vehicles hired to transport determined travelers violating the PSBB, for instance.
Just recently a Muslim cleric was arrested shortly after his release from prison for gathering together a crowd, which the police said was a blatant violation of the PSBB. The arrest was indeed controversial, but strict and indiscriminate enforcement of the policy will deter people from violating it.
We are all for firm measures to contain the virus, but not a return to authoritarianism, as a number of arrests of individuals critical of the government’s policies regarding the pandemic may have signaled.
The local governments in Greater Jakarta are still facing a steep challenge in coaxing and supervising around 13 million residents. Their success in “flattening the curve”, however, will define the country’s fight against the virus and efforts to revive the ailing economy.