The Jakarta Post
A group of scientists from the Indonesian Young Scientist Forum has called on the government to impose a lockdown on areas that have been deemed hot zones of the COVID-19 outbreak, in an effort to contain the virus' spread ahead of Ramadan and the Idul Fitri holiday in April and May.
In a letter addressed to Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko, the scientists requested an official meeting to contribute to the government’s policymaking process with regard to the public health crisis ahead of the major religious holiday.
The Islamic fasting month of Ramadan is expected to begin on April 23, while Idul Fitri, which marks the end of the fasting month, is expected to fall on May 23.
The scientists noted that the annual Idul Fitri exodus, called mudik, during which people return to their hometowns across the country, would heighten the risk of a nationwide epidemic.
“Measures to limit crowds and the movement of individuals in vulnerable areas should be maximized if the number of [confirmed] cases per day double,” the forum said in a statement on Saturday.
The forum also recommended that the government increase the number of laboratories designated as COVID-19 testing facilities in addition to the lab of the Health Ministry's Health Research and Development Agency (Litbangkes) to improve and accelerate tracing of close contacts.
In addition, the forum called for the immediate establishment of an independent commission of scholars and practitioners from various sectors to evaluate the Health Ministry’s performance in detecting COVID-19 cases.
“Decisions have to be made based on our readiness for the worst-case scenario, for the safety of Indonesia,” the forum said.
Moeldoko had said earlier that the government planned to enlist the help of universities and other institutions to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a "pandemic".
He continued that the government would no longer rely solely on the Health Ministry and health agencies for updates, but would actively engage health experts from a number of universities in its disease prevention and management efforts.
By March 16, Indonesia had reported 117 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including five deaths.
The government announced on March 14 that Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi had tested positive for the disease, identified as Case 76.
President Joko Widodo announced on Sunday that the government urged citizens to practice social distancing and stay at home in the nationwide effort to curb the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.