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Jakarta Post

Greater Jakarta, region hit hardest by COVID-19, can’t agree on how to fight virus

  • Sausan Atika

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, April 3, 2020   /   04:05 pm
Greater Jakarta, region hit hardest by COVID-19, can’t agree on how to fight virus A resident stands guard at the entrance of the Bukit Pasir Putih residential complex in Depok, West Java, on Tuesday. Residents have closed access to the complex to protect themselves from the COVID-19 outbreak. (JP/Riand Alfiandy)

About a month after Indonesia reported its first coronavirus cases and three days after President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo declared the outbreak a public health emergency requiring large-scale social restriction, the leaders of Greater Jakarta’s constituent cities have yet to agree on a single strategy to contain the pandemic.   

Despite Jokowi’s declaration on Tuesday, not a single city in the country has officially imposed a large-scale social restriction, also known as PSBB. According to the Government Regulation No. 21 on PSBB, provinces and cities are required to obtain a permit from the health minister to impose the policy.  

Jakarta, the epicenter of the outbreak, has already implemented PSBB measures, such as suspending office operations, shutting down schools and limiting religious gatherings, but it has yet to secure permission from the health ministry for the actions it has taken.  

The President has called on regional administrations, including Jakarta, to follow existing regulations in devising an anti-COVID-19 strategy and has asked Health Minister Terawan Adi Putranto to issue a health ministerial regulation detailing the criteria for regions to be granted PSBB status. 

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan was the first to request PSBB status. 

“What we need from the central government is to grant us the status so that we can issue regulations [to address COVID-19],” Anies said in a virtual meeting with Vice President Ma’ruf Amin on Thursday.

He proposed that the PSBB policy for Jakarta should also be applicable to its satellite cities – the Greater Jakarta area – since the outbreak had affected the whole region. As of Thursday, Jakarta had confirmed at least 885 coronavirus cases with 90 deaths. West Java and Banten, the provinces where Jakarta’s satellites are located, followed the capital with 223 cases (25 deaths) and 164 cases (14 deaths), respectively.  

“We suggest that there should be a distinct policy for Greater Jakarta,” he said.

Greater Jakarta includes South Tangerang, Tangerang municipality and Tangerang regency in Banten, as well as Depok, Bekasi municipality, Bekasi regency, Bogor municipality and Bogor regency in West Java. It covers about 30 million residents, many of whom, under normal circumstances, commute to work in the capital. 

Not all leaders of those cities and regencies are on the same page as Anies, however. 

Bogor deputy mayor Dedie Rachim said the city administration was preparing the prerequisites for PSBB and was set to hold a meeting with the Bogor Council on April 7 to reach a mutual understanding on the issue. “If we obtain a green light [at the meeting] and our working units are ready [to implement PSBB], we will propose it,” he told The Jakarta Post.

He concurred with Anies, saying any attempt to fight the pandemic in the Greater Jakarta area should be coordinated with the other cities.   

South Tangerang deputy mayor Benyamin Davnie said the city’s working units were currently collating data, as required by the regulation, prior to conferring with its Regional Leadership Forum (Forkopimda). “Even though a decision should be made swiftly, the study should be well prepared,” he said. 

Tangerang regent Ahmed Zaki Iskandar said the regency was undecided and was in talks with the Banten governor and other mayors and regents in the province. 

Tangerang municipality, Bogor regency and Bekasi municipality have decided to go against Anies’ proposal, saying that implementing large-scale social restrictions would be financially costly and could trigger social unrest.

“We encourage Jakarta to apply for a regional quarantine,” Bogor Regent Ade Yasin told the Post.

The closure of access to and from Jakarta, the country's center of business, would prevent Bogor commuters – who average 2 million on a regular day – from using public transportation.

“Imposing a regional quarantine on Jakarta will help the capital handle the COVID-19 outbreak. It will also share the burden and responsibility of handling the outbreak with its satellite cities,” she said. 

Tangerang Mayor Arief R. Wismansyah also responded coolly to Anies’ proposal, saying that such a policy depended on the capital’s financial capability. “It is a wise consideration, but we have a limited city budget. We would need assistance [funds] from the Jakarta administration because one of the requirements to implement a large-scale social restriction is to guarantee people’s basic necessities,” he said.

Bekasi deputy mayor Tri Adhianto said the city administration did not have any plan to apply for PSBB status with the central government. The city, however, would cooperate if the government granted Anies’ request for a large-scale social restriction status to be implemented throughout the Greater Jakarta area.