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Jakarta Post

Indonesia waives import levies for COVID-19 antivirus development, allocates Rp 1t for medical needs

  • Adrian Wail Akhlas

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, March 16, 2020   /   02:30 pm
Indonesia waives import levies for COVID-19 antivirus development, allocates Rp 1t for medical needs Officers spray disinfectant at Gambir train station in Central Jakarta on Thursday to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)

The government will eliminate the import duty for materials needed to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 and allocate Rp 1 trillion (US$67.04 million) for related medical needs, as the number of infections experienced a recent spike in Indonesia and hospitals struggle to cope with the virus.

"We will remove the import duty for materials needed in antivirus research and development, including for universities, state-owned enterprises and pharmaceutical businesses," Finance Minister Sri Mulyani told a news conference in Jakarta on Friday.

The Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology in Jakarta and state pharmaceutical company Bio Farma have reportedly been approached by the government to produce a vaccine for the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus.

Read also: Govt seeks help from universities, research agencies in running COVID-19 tests

In addition, Sri Mulyani said the government was providing additional support for businesses importing medical equipment and medicine needed to handle the pandemic.

"We have also eliminated the import duty for medicines paid by the government," the minister told reporters, adding that the same will be done for medical aid and COVID-19 testing devices sent by other countries.

The government has set aside Rp 1 trillion for related medical needs, including to prepare hospitals, for laboratory tests and to cover the medical costs of infected persons, Sri Mulyani said.

“The Finance Ministry will provide the necessary funds for COVID-19 handling, including for case tracking, coordination between the central government and regional administrations and the provision of face masks and hand sanitizer,” she added.

Eijkman and Airlangga University in Surabaya, East Java, have been appointed to run lab tests for suspected COVID-19 patients to help the Health Ministry's Health Research and Development Agency (Balitbangkes).

A leaked document obtained by The Jakarta Post on Friday showed that out of the 132 referral hospitals to take in COVID-19 patients, only 49 were “ready”. The document is the minutes of a meeting between several government institutions in charge of handling the outbreak in Indonesia.

Read also: Indonesia scrambles to contain coronavirus as most hospitals not ready

Indonesia has so far announced 117 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with five deaths. Globally, the pneumonia-like illness has infected more than 156,000 people and taken at least 5,800 lives.

The government announced on Friday that it was allocating Rp 120 trillion from the state budget to stimulate the economy through tax incentives and subsidies for workers, businesses and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It also announced a second stimulus package, worth Rp 22.9 trillion, which includes individual and corporate tax breaks as well as the relaxation of loan disbursements and restructuring requirements.

This is in addition to the first Rp 10.3 trillion stimulus package announced on Feb. 25, which was aimed at boosting household spending and providing mortgage subsidies for low-income families and fiscal incentives for travel-related businesses.

The government will also speed up the disbursement of social spending and funds for the pre-employment card program in the first quarter of this year.

If you want to help in the fight against COVID-19, we have compiled an up-to-date list of community initiatives designed to aid medical workers and low-income people in this article. Link: [UPDATED] Anti-COVID-19 initiatives: Helping Indonesia fight the outbreak