Doubts over whether the reinstated large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) will eventually flatten the curve of COVID-19 transmission in Jakarta linger. The public has the right to express such skepticism as they have witnessed in their life many regulations go unenforced, or worse, as some believe, the regulations are created to be broken.
It is really a daunting challenge for the Jakarta Police, Public Order Agency and other bodies to enforce the curbs, as the number of their personnel is far from enough to monitor about 600,000 employees who still work in office spaces, and millions of people who travel from, into and across the city because human mobility has not been entirely banned.
Probably because of the desperate need for more personnel to enforce the PSBB, the police have considered the involvement of gang leaders, especially in monitoring the implementation of the restrictions in traditional markets. The plan was immediately dropped.
The gubernatorial regulation that reimposed the restrictions from Sept. 14 to Sept. 27 includes clauses that threaten to punish those who violate the health protocols. The regulation, for example, requires a first-time offender to undertake an hour of social work and to pay a fine of Rp 250,000 (US$13.47). The amount of the fine will double if the violation, such as a failure to wear mask, is repeated and tripled if committed for a third time.
For business owners, failure to comply with the regulation will force them to halt their operations for three days and pay a Rp 50 million fine if they repeat the offense. If they cannot pay the fine in seven days the government will revoke their licenses.
Under the current PSBB, workplaces in 11 essential sectors, such as health, food, energy, communications, logistics and basic needs retail – can remain open at half the capacity of their respective space. Activities outside these sectors, such as government offices, must have no more than one fourth of employees working in the office at the same time.
Looking at the severity of the punitive measures, the regulation should deter people from attempting to break it. But to create a deterrent effect, consistent and nondiscriminatory enforcement is needed. There should be no room to negotiate, or else high-level compliance with the protocols will remain elusive.
Both the government and law enforcers also have to step up the campaign to raise public awareness about the restrictions. Even after seven months of the fight against COVID-19, we still see people wearing masks improperly on the street, which only shows the health protocols have not been communicated well.
At the end of the day, the PSBB is just a tool to bring down the positivity rate to a manageable level and eventually contain the virus transmission. The restrictions are required simply to prevent the health system from collapsing, which, if it happened, would be disastrous.
While it is too early to measure the effectiveness of PSBB part two, we should realize that two weeks of restrictions may not make a difference. Perhaps we may need not only prolonged but also tougher PSBB to really beat the pandemic.