The Jakarta Post
The Trade Ministry has issued a regulation to temporarily scrap all requirements for importing protective gear and medical equipment to reverse the shortages of such items used to treat COVID-19 patients and prevent further spread.
The ministry said in statement on Tuesday that importers would no longer need surveyors reports (LS) from the originating countries or ports and would meet no port entry restrictions until June 30. Shipment would now only need a bill of loading.
"We hope that the issuance of the Trade Ministry regulation can accelerate the entry of medical tools needed during the COVID-19 pandemic so that the availability of tools is fulfilled and there are no shortages," Trade Minister Agus Suparmanto said.
As the only few requirements for such products have been scrapped through the new regulation, licensing is no longer needed to import them. The regulation applies to face masks, medical attire, gloves and various pieces of medical equipment.
The ministry's effort is intended to help Indonesia’s health workers, doctors and nurses who have been treating COVID-19 cases since mid-February despite many of them having inadequate protection. The Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) announced over the weekend that five doctors had died of the illness, in addition to a nurse who died of COVID-19 on March 12.
Meanwhile, fears over the coronavirus' spread has caused face mask prices to skyrocket as uncontrolled buying and hoarding have resulted in scarcity. Manufacturers have also been allegedly caught inflating prices by stockpiling supplies.
The regulation follows a recent presidential decree that compels the government to ease imports of products needed to handle COVID-19 cases.
The ministry previously banned exporting face masks, hand sanitizer, protective medical gear and raw materials used for health products through Trade Ministry Regulation No. 23/2020 to ensure a sufficient domestic supply.
"The availability of affordable medical devices and personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic is believed to be able to support the government's efforts to break the chain of virus spread," the minister concluded.
IDI chairman Ilham Oetama Marsis said in a statement sent to The Jakarta Post on Thursday that temporarily removing import licensing requirements was needed in the current emergency.
However, he said if "we fail [to handle COVID-19] with conservative policies, there are no other choices than executing a lockdown". Under such conditions, Indonesia has to prepare enough isolation rooms, medical equipment and secondary medications.
Major business players are split over the idea of a lockdown to slow the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19, but seem to support President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s push to limit face-to-face interactions by having people work, study and worship from home.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia quadrupled within a week, jumping from 172 positive diagnoses on March 17 to 790 on Wednesday. The number of deaths was 58, with the disease spreading to at least 24 of the country's 34 provinces.