Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan announced on Wednesday night that he was pulling the emergency brake on the “new normal” and by Sept. 14, barring no unforeseen changes, the capital would be back to full large-scale social restrictions (PSBB).
The government had been walking on a thin rope since the start of the “new normal” a few months ago, trying to get the best of both worlds — a strong economy and public health. But recent numbers have shown that we have stumbled and lost in both counts.
If there is anything we should be grateful for these days, it is that our government has the courage to admit defeat and is willing to return to ground zero and fight.
Many may feel frustrated. Business owners are struggling with losses, employees are anxious about job insecurity and informal workers must feel helpless, worried about fulfilling the most basic needs of life: food and shelter. People in my immediate circle have been wondering if there is any point to reviving strict PSBB now, given the already high number of confirmed cases.
It may seem like a lost cause, but it’s not. We need to understand that the “new normal” is evidently not suitable in practice. Since the start of the new normal, health protocols were gradually forgotten, causing rates of infection to skyrocket.
Containing contagion is important, despite promises of a vaccine at the end of the year, because our medical resources are being quickly depleted, a number of medical workers have died and those who remain alive are facing unprecedented levels of physical and mental exhaustion.
If we continued to let things take their natural course, by Sept. 17 all hospital isolation wards would be full. For intensive care units, the predicted saturation point was even closer: Sept. 15.
We also need to think about what this means for patients with other medical conditions. They may not be receiving adequate treatment because of strained capacity and a fear of nosocomial infection.
It is understandably difficult to empathize when all we see are cold, hard numbers, but we need to understand that the person who can’t find a hospital bed could easily be any of us and that all the medical workers and victims who have died had their own identities, stories and unrealized dreams.
The threat of famine, poverty and economic fallout from PSBB is real. However, continuing the “new normal” and adopting a “we can just wing it” attitude, would have been at the expense of many lives — victims and frontline heroes alike. The pandemic would drag on for even longer, causing long-term irreversible damage to our economy and health.
We are living in a dysfunctional world. To name a few examples, children can’t go to school, people are living in isolation, vaccination rates have dropped due to fear of hospitals, and loved ones can’t have proper closure during funerals because of COVID-19 burial protocols. We need to fix this — soon.
What can we do next? We need to fully support the government and see to it that we succeed this time. Individually, we can do so by following health protocols to the dot. No more half-hearted actions from the government or from us. Let’s wash our hands, maintain social distance and stay home whenever we can.
Within your immediate community, be the activist that everyone needs; encourage your friends, families, neighbors and colleagues to do the same. Help the less fortunate whenever possible.
I believe there are many in Jakarta who live with privilege and are in the position to affect change. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
[...] continuing the “new normal” and adopting a “we can just wing it” attitude would have been at the expense of many lives [...]
PhD in medicine from the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, currently general manager of PT Winida Ayu Lestari. The views expressed are personal.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.