How should we define 2020? Perhaps one will remember it as a time of struggling to stay sane at home, having one’s salary cut, scrambling to find a new job, getting infected with COVID-19 or losing loved ones (the virus has claimed 1.65 million lives globally, with more than 19,200 deaths recorded in Indonesia).

One way or another, the virus has affected our lives. It is a somber year for many, but perhaps there is another way to remember the year?

In this multimedia report, you will meet a singer and a theater group who are adapting to virtual stages; a group of psychologists who help patients through online counseling and students who continue to learn online despite a lack of internet access in their village.

Many have not only managed to adapt to this difficult time but also found innovative ways to live, work and even help others. Also in this report, some architects, business owners and a financial planner share how they imagine the future in a post-coronavirus world.

Their stories are a reminder that, despite all the losses we have suffered, 2020 is also the year when we found strength and resilience that hopefully will guide us through whatever may come in the future.

This report is supported by the Facebook COVID-19 grant, which is managed by The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ).

MAP Drown in Waste - The Jakarta Post

Staying mentally and physically healthy

By Apriza Pinandita and Arya Dipa

A few months after the first COVID-19 cases were detected in the country, psychologist Kasandra Putranto began receiving calls from her old clients. They were not simply courtesy calls; the former clients wanted to return to counselling.

Many of them complained of anxiety and depression.

“They were confused about why their mental health issues were returning even after they had spent time for recovery,” Kasandra told The Jakarta Post recently.

She suspected that her clients had experienced a reemergence of symptoms because of the stress of the COVID-19 outbreak.

For people suffering from mental health issues, the pandemic has been an impediment to obtaining help. Many cannot see psychologists or doctors in person because of government-imposed restrictions to contain the spread of the illness.

As a result, online counseling services have become popular.

Lia, a 21-year-old in her final year of university in Bandung, experienced acute psychological symptoms at her home. But she felt she could not go to the doctor because of large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) and the perceived high risk of COVID-19 infection in health facilities.

She was diagnosed with affective bipolar disorder, which is often treated through routine therapy and counselling.

“It was an emergency. I needed someone who understood [mental health],” Lia said.

Lia, 21-year-old college student in Bandung, was diagnosed with affective bipolar disorder. She has been using Ruang Empati over the last few months to ease her anxiety and depression. (JP/Arya Dipa)

She turned to Ruang Empati, an online counselling service managed by psychiatrists, psychologists and volunteers.

Initially launched as @ketik.hasaka in April, the platform provides online consultations, self-assessments and art therapy to help patients learn how to express their feelings and reminisce about good memories through drawing.

Dzikri El-Muhammady, a volunteer coordinator with Ruang Empati, said the platform was now helping more than 150 people, aged 13 to 30. “They are facing various problems, including family, work, their love lives and academic [struggles].”

“It is basically a peer counseling service. We provide counseling without judging or stigmatizing our clients, so people are free to express their feelings,” Dzikri added.

Lia said the online service had helped her get through a difficult period, but she said that meeting a doctor in person was more comfortable.

Kasandra said the current situation had been hard for people who struggled with psychological issues. 

“When people face threats, their brains automatically search for social closeness, making them want to be with [friends and family],” she said. “However, they can’t because of the restrictions, which leads to other psychological issues.”

Some people turn to other means of coping, such as consuming alcohol.

A recent report by Nielsen showed that alcohol sales in stores in the United States were up 54 percent in late March compared to the same period last year, while online sales were up nearly 500 percent in late April.

“Those who can’t really adjust will be the ones who are affected the most,” Kasandra said.

She noted that some people struggled to recognize mental health issues in themselves and explained certain signs that could signal the presence of such issues.

One was an unexpected change in behavior, such as complaining more than usual, raising one’s voice while talking, skipping meals or stopping previously enjoyable activities.

Kasandra noted that excessive behaviors were also signs of mental distress. “Eating, sleeping or exercising too much is not good. If you start doing those things, you may need help from professionals,” she said. 

She said that maintaining personal hygiene, keeping to a good diet, exercising and resting could help keep some psychological symptoms at bay.

“We can go outside sometimes. You can sunbathe, at least” said Kasandra.

Maintaining physical health has been a challenge for many during the pandemic, as the risk of illness has discouraged many from exercising in public places.

Police officers hold up banners reminding people to abide to health protocols at Jl. Thamrin, Central Jakarta, on Nov. 1. (JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)

Anton Sony Wibowo, an ear, nose, throat (ENT) specialist at Gadjah Mada University Hospital in Yogyakarta, said it was necessary to cover one’s nose, eyes and mouth to be safe while exercising outdoors, noting that the three body parts were the main entryways for the virus.

He suggested that people wear goggles and masks while exercising outdoors.

“The coronavirus attacks not only the respiratory organs, [but also] our eyes, heart, liver and other digestive organs. It has many receptors in our body. Therefore, it can cause more symptoms than a [purely] respiratory disease,” he said.

Anton urged people who had had close contact with COVID-19 patients or suspected carriers to get examined immediately, even if they only had mild symptoms.

“It will protect not only you but also others.”

Ruang Empati can be accessed at or by phone at 0818272255. The Indonesian Clinical Psychological Association operates a hotline for people affected by the pandemic at 082139773275.

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Manage, save, invest: Tackling financial stress during pandemic

By Riza Roidila Mufti

Cindy Dayana, 29, did not face any financial problems before the COVID-19 pandemic. As the sole breadwinner in her family, she managed to support her parents and a sibling through her income as a consultant in entrepreneurship education and community development.

Then the pandemic hit Indonesia, bringing a sea of change into her job. She now only receives a third of her regular monthly income, forcing her to cut back some spending on non-essential items and sacrifice her savings.

“In this pandemic, I have learned how important emergency funds are, and that we have to be wise in spending money even if it is for our parents or other needs. I think we must be brave to say ‘no’ to something that is not essential,” she told The Jakarta Post on Aug. 10.

Cindy is not alone in this fight. Millions of Indonesians have lost their jobs, are being furloughed or are earning a reduced income as COVID-19 grips Indonesia’s economy.

The National Development Planning Ministry recorded that 3.7 million people had lost their jobs so far. The ministry estimated that 5.5 million more would face lay-offs this year, bringing the total number of unemployed to 12.7 million.

This projection is worrying, especially considering that many Indonesians still do not have a financial safety net.

According to the Indonesia Financial Health Index survey in 2019, as many as 63 percent of respondents do not have enough savings to fulfill their needs for more than six months if they lose their job. The survey, organized by Singapore-based financial service platform GoBear, involved 1,000 respondents aged 18 to 65 years.

The pandemic has led many people to change their way of managing their money. For Cindy, the pandemic has made her realize how important it is to manage your finances wisely and to have emergency funds.

For others, the pandemic led them to buy stocks on the bourse. The number of retail investors in the country had risen to 1.2 million as of June 30, an increase of around 12 percent from December last year, according to data from the Indonesian Central Securities Depository (KSEI).

Praditya Indra Wicaksono, a 26-year-old freelance event organizer, meanwhile, considers a more rustic kind of investment.

“If I knew this pandemic was going to happen, I would have invested my income in livestock, either chickens, goats or cows,” said Praditya, who is based in Surakarta, Central Java.

“I would raise livestock for farming before this pandemic happened so that I could survive.”

Praditya also said another takeaway from the pandemic was about financial priorities. He spends on what he needs instead of what he wants. He must tighten his belt after five of his events were canceled.

Financial planner Prita Hapsari Ghozie encourages people to have an emergency fund. The fund can be started by pawning or selling valuables that are not essential to you. (JP/Nurhayati)

Financial planner Prita Hapsari Ghozie said the COVID-19 pandemic was the right moment for people to reevaluate their financial management.

“So, take this moment as our turning point to reflect that our financial management was not good before. So, now we have more effort and energy to think about it, and let’s fix it,” said Prita on Aug. 12.

For people who lose their income during this pandemic, Prita encourages them to be creative and open up to the possibility of a new source of income. She also suggests people spare money for emergency funds, investment and saving, as well as avoid consumptive credit during this time.

“What I want to remind people who still have their income, no matter how much it is, you have to make an effort to allocate your money for an emergency fund. Even though it is just a small amount of money [..] it is a good habit that we should build from now," she said.

According to Prita, there are several reasons why many Indonesians do not feel the urgency to have an emergency fund. One of them is the common cultural belief that God has predestined the prosperity of every human.

“I agree that all fortune is destined by God, but oftentimes I see people do not realize that when a fortune came to them, they did not manage it and spend wisely,” she said, adding that many young people also often use the term YOLO’ or ‘You Only Live Once’ as an excuse for a lifestyle that emphasizes spending money on leisure activities.

“Yes, it is true that we only live once, but it would be better if we redefined the ‘YOLO’ term by not wasting the income we have on leisure only. We have to manage it properly,” she said.

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How COVID-19 shapes future home design

By Riza Roidila Mufti and Yuliasri Perdani

What is home? Many people now define it as their office, school and playground. For more than a half year, people have been advised to stay home to prevent coronavirus transmission.

As a result, many are adjusting their homes to accommodate their current needs and meet health protocols.

The pandemic has also forced people to rethink the elements of their house. What used to be important in the past may not be essential anymore today and vice versa. The Jakarta Post has talked with three Indonesian architects on how the coronavirus will change the way we live and build in the future.

Hygiene first

Prominent Indonesian architect Budi Pradono says that hygiene is an integral part of home design. This will also lead to interior arrangement changes, such as installing handwashing stations in the entryway.

Homeowners' concerns over hygiene may also give a boost to smart home technology. People may install voice-activated and face recognition technology to minimize physical contact.

“Home automation makes it possible for us to open doors without holding door handles or turning lights on only by clapping. Smart homes already exist, but I think the trend will soar further,” said Budi.

Dedicated working space

In the first months of quarantine, we could survive with a makeshift home office. But as Indonesia’s COVID-19 curve keeps rising and the lockdown is reinforced, the need to have a proper home office has become more important.

This is why Budi recommends having a dedicated space for working, which can help to stay focused and productive.

Transforming a second floor or other seldom-used spaces at home into a dedicated working space with partitions could be worth it, Budi said. He added that an ideal home office should have good natural lighting and air circulation.

A space to relax

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of many people. Fear and anxiety over the disease and changes in life can be overwhelming for us.

Budi says that a dedicated space for relaxation at home may be helpful for some people.

In this space, family members can relax, meditate, pray or take a power nap. If providing a dedicated relaxation place is difficult, you can add water or nature-related elements within your house to create a relaxing atmosphere.

“Water elements could provide a relaxing feeling to people, for example, by putting an aquarium with koi fish inside it,” Budi said.

Breaking the wall

It is often difficult for families living in a small house or apartment to have a dedicated spot for specific purposes.

To solve this, young architects Sri Rahma Apriliyanthi (Riri) and Vinsensius Gilrandy Santoso (Randy) recommend an open plan concept.

“[Moving forward], I think what must be reconsidered is whether it is necessary to have many wall partitions at home, for example, between the dining room and family room,” said Riri, who along with Randy won an international competition on home design responding to COVID-19.

“I think something more flexible and having efficient space utilization must be explored,” she added.

The open plan concept offers a greater degree of flexibility and adaptability. Eliminating partition walls can provide us with a bigger space, which can host a greater array of activities – like cooking, exercising and spending quality time with family.

Closer to nature

Our appreciation of nature seems to have greatly increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Walking on a green backyard or simply glancing at plants is a source of reprieve for many.

"Naturally, people will miss being closer to nature; that is why the integration of the house with nature is important. As you can see today, many people are buying plants because they want to be closer with nature," said Budi Pradono.

Riri and Randy also highlighted other benefits of having an open space. To minimize the risk of virus transmission, people can welcome their guests in an open space instead of in their living room. Homeowners could also use open space for outdoor activities such as exercising and gardening.

Bringing air and light into home

Budi Pradono says a house needs good air circulation to prevent the virus from being trapped inside their homes. A house, he said, needs to have more windows and other kinds of ventilation to create a safe breathing environment.

“We cannot rely on air conditioners. There must be open windows in the house to create good air circulation,” said Budi Pradono.

Besides good air circulation, Budi also suggests that home owners bring enough natural light into their homes. Studies suggest that natural light exposure can boost vitamin D, ward off seasonal depression and improve sleep quality.

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Finding creative ways to learn from home

By Panca Nugraha, Djemi Amnifu, Vela Andapita and Apriza Pinandita

Forty-five kilometers from Sumbawa Besar, the capital of Sumbawa municipality, West Nusa Tenggara, stands the small village of Punik, home to around 500 families who are mostly coffee farmers.

When the Education and Culture Ministry decided to temporarily close schools in March to prevent COVID-19 transmission, Punik was one of the thousands of villages in the country that struggled to shift to studying at home. Located 820 meters above sea level, the village has almost zero mobile data or wireless network coverage. Only a few villagers have smartphones, let alone computers, making online learning a virtual impossibility.

So students and teachers at Punik Satu Atap elementary and junior high schools found a creative alternative so they could learn from home: walkie-talkies.

During the first days of the school closure, teachers would visit their students door-to-door: an arduous task when the school has only 13 teachers for its 90 students.

The solution came when Rusdianto, a university lecturer and a member of the Sumbawa branch of a national ham radio organization, discussed the problem with local teachers and residents.

“We listened to their concerns and decided to use radio communication. Thank God it worked,” Rusdianto told The Jakarta Post in August.

One walkie-talkie costs Rp 150,000 (US$10), much less than what teachers and parents would pay for a smartphone and monthly data packages.

The kindness of neighbors 

In Kupang, the provincial capital of neighboring East Nusa Tenggara province, the issue on most parents’ minds is affordability rather than the availability of internet access.

“For us, meeting our daily needs has been a [challenge], let alone buying [mobile data plans],” said Priyo Widodo, a parent and resident of Kelapa Lima district.

The 48-year-old is an ojek (motorcycle taxi) driver who typically earns only around Rp 60,000 per day. His daily income has dropped since the COVID-19 epidemic emerged in Indonesia, and on some days he has no customers at all.

His two children in junior and senior high school have been sharing a single smartphone between them to keep up with online classes.

“I need Rp 100,000 a week to buy [mobile data],” he said. “Where can I get the money?

For low-income families like Priyo’s, Thomas Radiena and Ratna have been a godsend.

Thomas, a police officer, and his wife Ratna, who is a pastor, provide free WiFi at the Taman Baca Batu Piak public library they established next to their house. They built the library in 2018 as a place to keep books for the neighborhood children and it has gained further importance during the pandemic.

“For students who don’t own mobile phones or laptops, we lend them gadgets [so they can] do their homework,” said Thomas.

Thomas Radiena, a police officer in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, provides children in his neighborhood with free Wi-Fi and devices to be used for online learning. (JP/Djemi Amnifu)

A silver lining

While studying from home has been difficult for many, Fiska, a hospital worker in Semarang, Central Java has benefited unexpectedly from the school closure. Her 7-year-old son has autism and has always struggled at school. But when the schools closed, Fiska and her husband noticed that their son’s development actually started improving.

“I realized that he’s more comfortable and learns better at home,” Fiska said. “So I started preparing to take full control of his education. I studied the curriculum, gathered the learning materials and spoke with experts.”

Today, Fiska and her husband homeschool their son each day after they come home from work.

Fiska said she felt blessed to have great community support. She consults regularly with her son’s therapist and other homeschooling parents. She plans to consider sending him back to school only when she is certain that he is ready to socialize with his peers.

Education dilemma

Even as students, teachers and parents try to make the most of a difficult situation, remote learning still has a long way to go in Indonesia before it can truly replace in-person instruction, especially as the education system needed reforming even before the health crisis.

At the start of August, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the world faced a "generational catastrophe" as a result of the school closures. He elaborated that remote learning could lead to the most vulnerable children falling even further behind at school, which could “exacerbate entrenched inequalities”.

“Once local transmission of COVID-19 is under control, getting students back into schools and learning institutions as safely as possible must be a top priority,” he said in a video statement.

When the new school year commenced in July, the Indonesian government started reopening schools in areas where local transmission of COVID-19 was not under control, sparking criticism from teachers and pediatricians who feared that resuming in-class learning could put children at risk of contracting COVID-19.

In response to the criticism, Education Minister Nadiem Makarim said that conventional classroom learning was the only available option in many cases.

“We have 50 percent of our population struggling immensely for reasons that are not their fault. The gap between them and the more well-to-do parts of the economy could become permanently unbridgeable,” he cautioned.

On Nov. 20, Nadiem announced that he would grant local administrations, schools and parents the authority to decide whether they would resume in-person education for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year, which ends in July of next year.

The Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) criticized the plan, accusing the government of shirking responsibility by making regional administrations responsible for the necessary health preparations.

A recent study by the commission has also found that 83 percent of schools are not prepared for in-person teaching.

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Commuters, transit companies adjust amid coronavirus

By Vela Andapita and Theresia Sufa

Jakarta is a city of commuters. Data from Statistics Indonesia (BPS) shows that around 3.2 million residents in Greater Jakarta are commuters, of which 2.5 million are office workers who commute daily.

The government and the Jakarta administration have long been encouraging commuters to take public transportation in their bid to ease the notorious congestion in the nation’s capital and to improve its worsening air quality.

But during the COVID-19 outbreak, crowding on to trains and buses is not just a hassle; it’s a potentially serious health risk.

Astried Riyanti is a 24-year-old commuter who has decided that the risk is too great. Before the health crisis, Astried regularly rode the city’s Transjakarta buses. The risk of contracting COVID-19, coupled with the fact that she is now pregnant, has also made her husband Dwi Putra more protective of her. Dwi now drops her off and picks her up at work in their car every day.

“It’s hard to imagine a pregnant woman taking the bus at a time like this. Is it safe for her and our baby’s health? I can’t risk it,” said Dwi.

Astried used to spend just Rp 5,500 (37 US cents) for her daily commute from her home in South Tangerang, Banten, to her office in Central Jakarta. The couple now spends at least Rp 50,000 per day on gas alone.

But Astried said she would consider using Transjakarta again in the future.

“Commuting by car with my husband is safer and more comfortable, although it takes hours to arrive because of traffic. But that’s not a wise option for the long run,” she said.

Among those who are still using public transportation during the epidemic is Rosa Maharani.

Even after President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo had called for Indonesians to work from home in March, the 34-year-old office worker continued to take the train to commute every day from her home in Bogor, West Java, to her office in North Jakarta. Rosa’s employer, a food manufacturing company, decided not to stop production despite the health emergency.

Rosa’s daily route has not changed much since before the pandemic. The main difference is in her personal hygiene regimen.

“I always bring hand sanitizer, wet wipes, a spare mask and tissues. When I arrive at my destination station, I wash my hands and dry them with the tissues,” she told The Jakarta Post.

Rosa also tries her best to avoid crowds. “I’m most worried when I see a packed train. Half of all seats must be empty, people follow that. But the standing area becomes more crowded. That’s why, if there are too many people, I prefer to wait for the next train,” she said.

Commuters stand on designated spots for social distancing as a train arrives at the Bekasi train station in West Java on July 10. (JP/P.J. Leo)

Given the growing health concerns among the public, all public transportation operators have implemented health protocols in a bid to minimize the risk of virus transmission.

Among the common rules are limiting the number of passengers, checking passengers’ temperatures, halting all cash transactions, providing hand washing facilities and improving their cleaning and disinfection services.

But even taking into account the restricted passenger load as a preventive measure, passenger volume has plunged in the Greater Jakarta public transit system.

PT Kereta Commuter Indonesia (KCI), which transported up to 1 million passengers per day before the health crisis, now serves around 350,000 passengers per day, although it has seen passenger numbers increase as more offices and businesses reopen.

Similarly, Transjakarta saw its daily passenger volume plunge 91 percent since the first COVID-19 cases emerged in March.

These numbers do not bode well for the government's efforts to increase public transportation ridership in Greater Jakarta to 60 percent by 2029. Before the health crisis, public transit ridership was at 32 percent.

A recent survey by the Indonesian Transportation Society (MTI) offers better news: It found that six out of 10 commuters in Greater Jakarta said they would resume using public transportation once the outbreak had subsided.

“The figure gives us a glimmer of hope about the future of urban mobility,” said MTI secretary-general Harya S. Dillon.

He also called for improvements to integrated services and payment methods to improve passenger experience. Transportation companies must also regain public trust in the context of the rising health concerns as an impact of the health crisis.

“The good news is, we haven’t seen a [transmission] cluster emerge in public transportation,” said Harya. “If people still don’t feel comfortable [using public transportation], I think it’s the Jakarta administration’s responsibility as the owner of Transjakarta and MRT Jakarta to provide regular COVID-19 testing.”

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Social Life

To connect or not to connect: Socializing during a pandemic

By Ramadani Saputra

How many times have you heard the words “can you hear me now?” or “you're still on mute” while talking to your friends or relatives in recent months?

With the COVID-19 pandemic having yet to show any signs of receding in many parts of the world, people have been forced to hold virtual meetings to communicate with their loved ones.

Take the example of Dina Arti Novianti, 25, who is residing and working in Cirebon, West Java. She hasn’t seen her parents, who are living around 200 kilometers away in Garut in the same province, since December last year due to travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic.

“I have been calling them more frequently since the epidemic began. Initially, I only called [my parents] three times a week. Now I video call them anytime I have the chance,” Dina told The Jakarta Post.

Rachmadea Aisyah in Jakarta echoed Dina’s experience. The 26-year-old had been utilizing virtual means to contact her family in Sidoarjo, East Java. She always spends five to 10 minutes every day calling her parents.

“Under the current situation, I feel more emotional during every virtual meeting [with my family]. There’s a desire to have physical touch or just have a laugh directly with them,” said Rachmadea.

Not a replacement

While video chats have helped her engage with loved ones during the pandemic, Dina said she felt there was something missing from these virtual interactions.

“I know that my friends and family are well since we [often] chat. However, there’s not much to talk about. They often don’t share much during our video call, since there are hurdles like time limitations and bad internet,” said Dina.

Psychologist Baby Jim Aditya highlighted that such a thing was common due to the lack of energy exchanges in virtual interaction. This can lead to lack of affection, which eventually causes loneliness in most people.

“[We can still see] emotion from facial expressions during virtual meetings but there are no feelings transferred. Emotions are filtered and distorted in virtual interactions,” Baby told the Post.

Rashan, 5, (holding flag) participates in an online commemoration of Indonesia’s Independence Day with his friends at Al Izhar Kindergarten in Jakarta, on Aug. 17. (JP/Seto Wardhana)

Studies show that verbal messages only comprise about 5 percent of human communication, while nonverbal messages, such as tone speech and gestures make up the greater part of the interaction.

It is also a challenge to replace physical meetings with virtual ones for Indonesians, Baby added, as society has a strong culture of togetherness, known as guyub.

Despite the drawbacks, Baby urged people to stick with virtual meetings during the epidemic.

She added that meeting others in person did not necessarily cure a sense of loneliness, as humans can feel lonely while being among crowds, too. For example, while hanging out with friends in a coffee shop, most people tend to be busy with their phones rather than talking with each other.

“Why do we have [to waste] our time and energy to meet [physically] if we’re not connecting at all?” said Baby. “All we need to do is set our mindset to feel connected with the people we’re interacting with, even though only through a virtual meeting.”

Bad business as people stay home

People nowadays, especially urbanites, carry out most of their social interactions in coffee shops or restaurants. When the COVID-19 outbreak occurred in Indonesia, people were restricted from visiting these shops; thus, hindering them from hanging out with friends.

Rachmadea said it had been months since the last time she hung out at Plaza Senayan mall, which is located near her office, to share juicy gossip with coworkers or have a casual chit chat about work with her bosses.

The pandemic has also brought bad news for the shops, as the number of visitors has declined significantly. According to Google’s Community Mobility Reports on global movement trends, visits to retail and recreational spaces, such as restaurants and shopping malls, in Indonesia dropped 43 percent in the first week of April from January to February.

Relung Kopi, a coffee shop in Tebet, South Jakarta, was no exception. Founder Rezki Ananta Putra said the shop’s sales had dropped 80 percent since the capital city imposed large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) policy in April.

“During the [first phase of] the PSBB, we couldn’t accept dine-in customers. This heavily affected us, as our main concept is a place to hang out,” Rezki said.

When authorities started easing restrictions in June, cafes and coffee shops were allowed to serve dine-in customers again.

To attract more customers, the coffee shop has set up tables and chairs for customers in its parking area. Experts say the risk of catching the novel coronavirus is much lower outdoors than indoors, as wind is believed to disperse viral droplets.

“We are promoting that Relung Kopi is spacious and has good air circulation. They don’t have to come inside as we provide chairs and tables in the parking spots, so they can enjoy their coffee outdoors,” Rezky said.

Apart from the outdoor precautions, he added that the coffee shop required every employee and visitor to adhere to health protocols, so people could enjoy interacting with others in his place once again.

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Arts and Entertainment

From lively crowds to remote applause: Creators, audiences adapt to tough situation

By Ramadani Saputra and Bambang Muryanto

A few weeks after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, Hollywood drama Contagion suddenly regained its popularity, nine years after its release in 2011.

The movie portrays a health crisis of a highly transmissible disease – which resembles the world’s current situation amid the COVID-19 outbreak. In March, the movie trended on streaming services such as Amazon Prime Video and iTunes.

Not only Contagion, it seems that people are watching more movies nowadays, as video streaming platforms are reporting a significant hike in the number of subscribers.

Since the era of the Great Depression in 1930s, movies and other artworks have become a means to escape from stressful periods – a phenomenon known as “escapism”.

However, the art and entertainment industry is not immune to the virus, as various restrictions imposed to limit the virus’ transmission have forced the movie industry to halt operations.

In Indonesia, cinemas in major cities were closed in March when authorities imposed the large-scale social restrictions (PSBB), leaving new releases from major studios in limbo and theater chains in a difficult situation.

“The company is still paying employees’ wages and insurance as well as maintaining cinemas across the archipelago,” said Dewinta Hutagaol, the spokesperson for Cinema XXI, Indonesia’s largest movie theater network.

In October, after seven months of hiatus, movie theater chains were allowed to resume operations in several cities, such as Jakarta, Bandung, Banjarmasin, Pontianak, Banjarmasin and Jayapura.

The outbreak had also forced movie crews, including renowned producer Mira Lesmana, to halt production. She expressed hope that the outbreak could be contained soon, so that moviegoers and crews could enjoy watching and making movies again.

Movie streaming platforms had been trying to fill the void left by the movie theaters. Several producers chose to release their new movies on these platforms, as the theaters were still closed. One example is Guru-Guru Gokil (Crazy Awesome Teacher), released on video streaming giant Netflix on Aug. 17. Disney’s blockbuster Mulan also skipped the big screen to premiere on streaming platform Disney+ in September.

Streaming platforms are projected to reap the benefit for some time into the future, as Consultancy Media Partners Asia estimates that video streaming service subscribers will number 14.7 million in the country by the end of this year, Reuters reported.

While agreeing that they would play an important role in the movie industry’s future, Mira said streaming platforms could not replace cinema as people’s main option for watching movies.

“Watching movies in a cinema is a special experience. It has also been a popular source of entertainment during difficult times, such as the Great Depression in the 1930s,” Mira told The Jakarta Post.

The pandemic has also hit the music industry hard, with musicians cut off from their largest source of income: live performances. Authorities have restricted organizers from holding concerts to avoid the risk of COVID-19 transmission in such public gatherings.

Singer and songwriter Nadin Amizah just launched her debut album in May. However, she said it was difficult to promote the album nowadays as her team could not hold a promotional gig anywhere.

“The income from live gigs contributes the most for my label. My income now is only coming from brands,” said Nadin.

The 20-year-old musician and her team have been trying to adapt by holding virtual concerts. Several Indonesian musicians have also pursued this path to keep afloat.

“I felt so unsettled during my first virtual concert because there was no audience. Usually, I get nervous from singing in front of people, but this felt depressing,” Nadin went on to say.

The same goes for other kinds of performing arts, including theater.

Teater Garasi in Yogyakarta showcased its latest show, UrFear: Huhu and the Multitude of Peer Gynts, from Oct. 31 to Nov. 30 on the website

Based loosely on allegorical drama Peer Gynt by 19th-century Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, the show was originally slated to be performed in Yogyakarta and Jakarta mid-year but was canceled due to the outbreak.

Instead of seeing that as a limitation, Teater Garasi smartly utilized the virtual stage to create an immersive theatrical experience. The show invited the audience to take part in an interactive game and interact with the performers.

Visitors take photos of Museum of New Norm, a paint work by Eko Nugroho that was showcased during the 2020 edition of ARTJOG at the Jogja National Museum in Yogyakarta on Aug. 22. The painting depicts people’s changing personal and social behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic. (JP/Bambang Muryanto)

Yogyakarta’s annual contemporary art festival ARTJOG also moved online for its 2020 edition. Carrying the theme of “Resilience”, the two-month exhibition was launched on Aug. 8 without the fanfare that accompanied the previous editions of the festival.

In line with physical distancing protocols, the organizer only allowed 60 visitors per day to explore the exhibition venue at the Jogja National Museum in Yogyakarta.

“We would miss the experience of organizing a festival [in a difficult time] if we didn’t do it now due to the outbreak. With many saying the pandemic will go on for quite a long time, we will have the opportunity to learn something that we can use for next year’s ARTJOG,” said ARTJOG organizer Heri Pemad.

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Tourism seeks new balance amid challenging recovery

By Ni Komang Erviani, Markus Makur, Riza Roidila Mufti and Vela Andapita

There was something different about the famous kecak dance performance at Uluwatu Temple’s clifftop amphitheater on Aug. 22. The kecak dancers appeared wearing face masks, while some were also wearing a face shield during the show. The dancers also kept their distance from one another.

That day was the first time the kecak dance had been performed at Uluwatu Temple with new protocols, after a months-long hiatus since the middle of March due to the pandemic.

“If there is no kecak performance, the Uluwatu Temple area will be very empty of visitors. We believe that with the return of the kecak dance in the new normal era, Bali tourism, especially Uluwatu, will recover,” said temple area manager I Wayan Wijana.

In addition to the performers, audience members are required to wear a face mask, pass a body temperature check and wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before watching the show. The seating area is also arranged to comply with physical distancing rules.

The Uluwatu Temple area management also introduced a cashless payment system using Quick Response Indonesia Standard (QRIS) to minimize physical contact.

After reopening its doors to domestic tourists on July 31, Bali is trying to comply with the Cleanliness, Hygiene, Safety, Environment (CHSE) protocols regulated by the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry, which aims to make sure that tourist destinations, hotels and restaurants follow the health protocols.

Going forward, Bali will also push digitalization in tourism, including online ticketing and cashless payment at tourist destinations.

“Tourists look for services that implement health protocols such as physical distancing and avoiding direct physical contact. With the presence of QRIS, tourists can visit [Bali] safely and comfortably. If [health protocols] are implemented well, I hope in the third quarter Bali will recover,” said Bali Governor I Wayan Koster.

The COVID-19 pandemic severely hit Bali’s tourism, which represents 80 percent of the island’s economy. Statistics Indonesia (BPS) recorded that Bali’s economy slumped 10.98 percent year-on-year in the second quarter this year.

The island lost an estimated Rp 48.5 trillion (US$3.33 billion) in tourism revenue between March and July, according to data from the Bali Tourism Agency.

The economic downturn may continue as Bali will be closed to all international tourists until the end of 2020.

The arrival of domestic travelers has not done much to reignite Bali’s tourism. Kuta beach is still quiet, except on the weekends when many locals flock to the streets and beaches. The streets of Canggu are mostly still empty with many shops, restaurants, cafés and bars still closed. In Sanur, hotels, restaurants, villas and shops are shut down.

“Even though we have reopened, our revenue is only 0.1 percent of the normal amount. So, this is a difficult time,” said Ida Bagus Gede Sidharta Putra, a hotel owner and deputy chairman of the Bali branch of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI).

Local businesses had expected to book more revenue during the Christmas and New Year holiday period. However, their hopes were washed away after the Bali governor issued a regulation, requiring travelers to undergo a COVID-19 swab test prior to their flight to Bali. The PHRI reported that the regulation had prompted many would-be holidaymakers to cancel their flights and hotel bookings.

Eyes on sustainable tourism

As recovery seems to be taking a long time, experts and industry players agreed that this was the right opportunity to rethink tourism in Bali and Indonesia in general.

Tourism expert from Udayana University, Agung Suryawan Wiranatha, said that before the pandemic, Bali’s tourism had been facing so many problems, such as an oversupply of hotel rooms, unhealthy competition among businesses, clean water shortage and environmental damage.

“This moment is very important for us to evaluate our tourism development, including that related to the environment,” Agung said.

Agung said Bali needed a maximum of 90,000 hotel rooms to accommodate tourists in 2020 if there is no pandemic. The island currently has a total of 160,000 hotel rooms.

“As long as the supply is much higher than the demand, there will always be competition between businesses, which try to lower prices,” Agung said, adding that it had turned Bali into a cheap tourist destination.

Agung urged the Bali administration to issue a moratorium on new hotels to address the issue.

Gus De of the PHRI also said the pandemic period was a time for introspection, finding a new balance in Bali’s economy.

“The fact that 80 percent of the economy is driven by tourism might be a good thing to consider right now. Do we need to push this tourism even more? We have 160,000 rooms already. On the other hand, there is an imbalance between the farming production compared to this industry.

“The message is maybe we need to make product differentiation for our economy in the future in Bali,” Gus De said.

Other tourist destinations in Indonesia are also looking for a more sustainable tourism in the future. Recently, the East Nusa Tenggara administration finally decided to limit the number of visitors to Komodo National Park to only 50,000 foreign and domestic tourists per year.

The national park – which is composed of Komodo, Rinca and Padar islands – is a home to more than 2,000 Komodo dragons.

Ancient beasts: Komodo dragons are endemic to the islands within the Komodo National Park in East Nusa Tenggara. (JP/Wienda Parwitasari)

The local administration set the visitor quota before the pandemic in a bid to maintain the well-being of the ancient lizards and their natural habitat.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the park management has also applied strict health protocols and physical distancing measures. All visitors must register online through prior to their visit and bring a valid rapid/PCR test result.

Komodo National Park now only grants access to 25 visitors every day to marvel at the largest species of lizard on Earth.

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