The Jakarta Post
Since the country’s first positive COVID-19 cases were announced in early March, a number of public officials have tested positive for the disease. This reminds us of loopholes in health protocols as the primary defense mechanism against the virus. Religious Affairs Minister Fachrul Razi is the latest minister to have contracted the virus, after Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi was infected in March and Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Edhy Prabowo tested positive earlier this month. Budi has been back at work since he recuperated from the disease, while Edhy, despite his recovery, did not turn up for a hearing with the House of Representatives on Sept. 22.
Two General Elections Commission (KPU) leaders, chairman Arief Budiman and deputy chairman Pramono Ubaid, tested positive at almost the same time last week. The two had worked in tandem and traveled together as part of KPU preparations for the Dec. 9 simultaneous regional elections before they were infected.
Earlier in August, Arief announced that 21 KPU staff members had tested positive ordered the temporary closure of the KPU office on Jl. Imam Bonjol, Central Jakarta, for sterilization measures.
Unlike Budi, Fachrul and KPU commissioners Arief and Pramono who let the public know about their health status, Edhy opted to remain silent. The public was only aware that he had contracted the disease after he had recovered. It was Edhy’s fellow Gerindra Party politician, Sufmi Dasco Ahmad, who confirmed on Sept. 17 that the minister had tested positive and once received intensive care at Gatot Soebroto Army Hospital.
It is true that the disease knows no social, economic and political boundaries. Both the poor and the rich, the weak and the powerful can get the virus, which has infected more than 266,800 people, killing over 10,200.
It is ironic, however, when government officials who lead the charge against COVID-19 have to take a tumble. Whether they fail to practice what they preach, public officials have sparked controversy after they were seen failing to uphold physical distancing rules and wear masks. It was reported that Edhy took off his mask when delivering a speech during his outings before he contracted the virus.
To add insult to injury, it has been revealed that the Health Ministry building in South Jakarta is the office cluster with the highest number of cases. As of Sept. 18, the building has recorded 252 infections. City Hall is another cluster and has seen 11 officials infected after the death of city secretary Saefullah due to COVID-19.
The disease is preventable and general rules prescribe that we only need to wear masks, keep a 1-meter distance from others, refrain from touching our faces, eyes and mouths, and frequently wash our hands with soap in order to avoid infection. In addition, enough sleep and consuming nutrition will improve our immune system in fending off the virus.
If the safety rules are lax among public officials and government institutions, we cannot expect the public to comply with them.