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Jakarta Post

Quarantine a few

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, June 4, 2020   /   09:01 am
Quarantine a few Commuter line passengers wait for the train at Manggarai Station, Jakarta, on Tuesday. (JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)

Jakarta is preparing for the so-called “new normal” protocols when the large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) wind down after less than two months of implementation, although reports have circulated that Governor Anies Baswedan may extend the policy for the third time.

Under the new arrangements, the restrictions will remain in place in only 62 out of more than 2,700 community units (RW) across the capital. Deputy governor for population control and settlement control Suharti said the city administration would enforce local-scale social restrictions (PSBL) in these 62 densely populated community units as a result of their higher rates of COVID-19 infection.

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Details of the restrictions are being formulated, but the general rules of the new policy stipulate that heads of the “red zone” community units will be responsible for enforcement of the policy, with the help of public order officers.

The new policy amounts to a quarantine as residents are not allowed to leave unless they secure a travel permit from their community unit head, while the areas remain off-limits to outsiders, at least for 14 days, when an evaluation will be made. During the quarantine, community health centers (Puskesmas) will conduct rapid tests and swab tests based on the data of people having tested positive, patients under surveillance (PDP), people under surveillance (ODP) and asymptomatic people collected by each community unit head.

The legal grounds for the PSBL are unclear as the 2018 Health Quarantine Law, the basis of the social restrictions, does not include community unit-based quarantines. Notwithstanding the legal controversy, the policy assumes that the 62 community units are the remaining hotspots of COVID-19 transmission in Jakarta.

The capital city has until today been the epicenter of the outbreak nationwide, recording over 7,500 confirmed cases and 529 deaths as of Wednesday. Jakarta health officials say new infections have shown a declining trend, with 76 on Tuesday from an average of 100 the week before, while the number of people recovering from the virus has consistently increased. Jakarta had also conducted polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests on more than 154,000 samples as of Sunday.

Despite the progress, however, it will be too risky to confine a few community units while allowing many others to ignore, if not defy, the strict health protocols.

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The new normal is basically a compromise to protect both public health and the economy. The new normal is no more than a relaxation to allow socioeconomic life to resume, although only after fulfilling strict requirements such as a consistent decline in reproduction rate for 14 days running and the availability of hospital facilities to treat non-COVID-19 patients. The new normal is by no means an easing of austerity measures, but rather an adaptation to health standards that have been raised to prevent infection. Frequent handwashing, wearing masks and physical distancing have been prescribed ever since COVID-19 first struck and these new habits should persist.

The relaxation is tempting but could lead to complacency. There is always a risk of a resurgence in a second wave of COVID-19 infections, as happened in pandemics in the past, if the new normal relaxes the former discipline.