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Jakarta Post

Neighborhood authorities help curb COVID-19 spread

  • Sausan Atika

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, April 1, 2020   /   05:56 pm
Neighborhood authorities help curb COVID-19 spread A resident guards the entrance to the Bukit Pasir Putih residential complex in Depok, West Java, on Tuesday. Residents have restricted access to the complex in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. (JP/Riand Alfiandy)

The Jakarta administration has enlisted the help of local authorities as part of wider efforts to curb the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the capital, which is the national epicenter of the epidemic that has infected more than 1600 people nationwide and killed 157.

The rapid rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in Jakarta has prompted extra efforts to contain the disease, as the city boasted a record 10.9 percent death rate – threefold the global average of 3.9 percent. As of Wednesday morning, the city’s website corona.jakarta.go.id reported 794 confirmed infections and 798 patients under surveillance in Jakarta.

Jakarta Governance Bureau head Premi Lasari has said leaders of the city’s many neighborhood units (RT) and community units (RW) had initiated efforts to protect vulnerable groups from COVID-19 transmission, as mandated in a city circular dated March 26.

Each RT and RW in the capital will collect and collate data on the most vulnerable groups in their respective neighborhoods, particularly people aged 60 and above as well as people suffering from hypertension, heart diseases, diabetes, lung diseases and cancer, according to the document.

According to the Jakarta office of Statistics Indonesia, there are about 800,000 residents recorded in the vulnerable age group. “The RT and RW unit heads have been carrying out the governor’s directive,” Premi told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

The grassroots efforts come as Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan instructed city officials to “protect the clean areas” – defined as neighborhoods with zero infections – during a virtual meeting with Jakarta mayors last week.

“They have to find ways so that the residents in areas declared safe are not infected,” Anies said in footage of the meeting posted on the administration’s YouTube channel.

So far, some RW leaders had acted on their own initiative to limit the movement of people in their respective communities, Premi said, including by closing off neighborhood entryways and monitoring traffic in and out of their areas.

The chairman of the Jakarta RT/RW Forum, Muhammad Irsyad, said many communities at the neighborhood level had taken preventive measures even before the governor’s directive was rolled out, after they had learned about the spread of the disease from media reports.

Irsyad said that each neighborhood had come up with a different approach to curbing the spread of the virus, based on the social makeup and characteristics of its population.

For instance, a neighborhood consisting of several urban kampungs would not be able to prohibit low-income residents from leaving their homes. “But at least they can monitor nonresidents who enter their area, besides promoting good personal hygiene,” Irsyad said.

Restricting access, he argued, was only feasible in smaller areas, such as the more well-off gated communities, in which residents had the resources to fulfill their needs during a quarantine.

But even in more modest community units, residents have not stopped lending a helping hand.

Irsyad, who heads a community unit of his own in the “clean” district of Rawa Badak Selatan in North Jakarta, said he recently had to ask a resident to get himself and his family checked up and to self-isolate themselves after showing what was deemed mild virus symptoms.

“As the managers of the [RW], we continue monitoring the needs of [that person and the family]. We’ve provided them with disinfectant spray and antiseptic handwash. Other neighbors could give them food if it is deemed necessary – I believe other RWs are doing the same thing,” he said.

For other places with more footfall or a lack of physical boundaries, things may be a bit more complicated.

Nurul Huda, head of the Gelora subdistrict in Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta, said that community units under his authority were unable to block access to their areas because a number of offices and a traditional market were located in the area.

“It is more complicated for our area because of the offices and Palmerah Market. Anyone who can will come through here,” he told the Post, noting that only some RWs were able to implement a one-gate policy, where residents take turns to guard access to the neighborhood.

The Gelora subdistrict has two confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday, Huda claims, and both are apartment dwellers in the area. Only 42 out of Jakarta's 261 subdistricts have not reported any COVID-19 positive cases.

While most RTs and RWs rely on their own residents to protect the neighborhood, Premi said they could still ask for assistance from the local police to enforce public order or help them promote physical distancing measures in the surrounding community.

In Gelora, Huda said, one police officer was assigned to each RW to patrol at night and raise public awareness on COVID-19 during the day.

Outside of the capital, a number of regions have also taken the initiative to impose containment measures of their own.

The Tegal city administration in Central Java has moved to close its borders for four months from March 30 to July 31, imposing something akin to a full lockdown. In Yogyakarta, residents of Sleman regency have limited access to several hamlets, such as the neighborhood units in Randu in Hargobinangun village, Pakem district, where only two roads are left open for access.

Read also: COVID-19: Regions start locking down as govt works on regulation