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Jakarta Post

Jakarta declares emergency, but doubts persist over compliance with social distancing directive

  • Ardila Syakriah
    Ardila Syakriah

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sun, March 22, 2020   /   06:17 pm
Jakarta declares emergency, but doubts persist over compliance with social distancing directive A man wearing a face mask walks at the Pasar Baru market in Jakarta on March 16. (AFP/Adek Berry)

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan has declared a two-week state of emergency in the capital and urged offices to suspend operations as part of COVID-19 containment efforts, but questions persist over whether companies will comply with the directive given the lack of enforcement.

Anies urged Friday that all corporations close down their offices and operational facilities and arrange for their employees to work from home for the next two weeks. Those unable to do so were instructed to reduce their employee numbers to essential staff only.

The governor said all entertainment venues would be closed starting Monday, following the closure of tourist spots last week. Passenger numbers and operational hours of public transportation would also be limited. A gubernatorial decree signed on Friday indicate that the status can be extended depending on the situation.

"There will be repercussions for people with daily wages [...] There'll be 1.1 million people in Jakarta who will receive assistance in stages," Anies said, adding that his administration would discuss the mechanism with the central government.

Jakarta is now the epicenter of the outbreak in the country, with 307 confirmed cases and 29 deaths as of Sunday, although experts believe the real number could be higher due to a lack of testing. Nationwide, 514 confirmed cases and 48 deaths were recorded as of Sunday.

There are doubts, however, over whether companies will comply with what Anies described as an "appeal" to all stakeholders to have "the moral responsibility" of helping to suppress the spread of the deadly virus.

When President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo urged on March 15 the public to exercise social distancing and work from home, some businesses defied his call and ran as usual in Jakarta, with workers crowding public transit areas.

Anies said the city administration would work with the Jakarta Police and the Jakarta Military Command to oversee social distancing measures. The National Police, meanwhile, issued an instruction on Sunday banning all mass gatherings.

Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) chairman Rosan Roslani claimed that companies capable of allowing their employees to work from home had complied with the President's call from the get-go, adding that these companies would also receive incentives from the government.

"Those unable to do so would have employers work in different shifts and at [different] locations," Rosan said on Sunday.

Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo) chairman Hariyadi B. Sukamdani said it was not surprising that some companies would continue to operate as normal given that the order was optional.

He believed, however, that more companies this week, except the retail industry, would comply with the call as the outbreak was escalating rapidly, threatening to cause financial losses.

"There's no need for forced measures. If they [companies] temporarily shut down, they will have their losses reduced," he said on Sunday.

He also warned that some businesses were not prepared to face the outbreak, saying that they might have to resort to a worst-case scenario, such as unpaid leave or pay cuts.

A 27 year-old restaurant chef, Ismail Wonggo, said he still had to go to work despite a decline in visitors and pay cut of 20 percent. He said the restaurant he worked for had reduced its hours of operation and provided workers with the necessary equipment to maintain personal hygiene.

"I'm not worried about myself; I'm worried about infecting my family," said Ismail, who commutes from Bekasi, West Java, to his workplace using public transportation.

Bhima Yudhistira Adhinegara, an economist at the Institute for Development of Economics and Finance, said businesses in Jakarta would probably still require their employees to go to work, while entertainment places would continue to operate because the administration had yet to address the issue of operating expenses.

Bhima urged Jakarta to provide compensation so that businesses would comply with the instructions, such as a temporary regional tax exemption, and to mediate businesses with banks to postpone the installment periods of their business loans.

Trubus Rahadiansyah, the head of the Center of Public Policy Studies at Trisakti University, said that while he commended Anies for taking strict measures to slow the spread of the virus, it was important for penalties to be imposed on residents and businesses that failed to comply with orders.

“As long as there’s no sanction, or any consequence, for not obeying the administration’s orders, the policy will be useless,” he said on Saturday, citing instructions made by Jokowi and Anies.

The central government has appeared to shy away from imposing lockdowns despite mounting calls by experts to shut down regions deemed to be red zones for COVID-19 transmission, such as Jakarta.

Experts believe that imposing a lockdown could help flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections, which in turn could prevent the country’s already limited healthcare system from being overburdened.

Twenty-five medical personnel had tested positive for COVID-19 and one had died from the disease as of Friday, according to the Jakarta administration.

The Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) told The Jakarta Post that three doctors had passed away after being infected with the virus as of Sunday.

Around 17,500 doctors, 27,000 nurses and 900 other medical workers in Jakarta are battling the virus without the proper protective equipment, prompting many of them to make personal requests for public donations. (glh/aly)