The Jakarta Post
The heads of the Pela Mampang and Bangka subdistrict administrations, local authorities in leafy South Jakarta, have been forced to move back into their private homes.
Their official residences, although newly renovated, cannot be used because medical workers have taken up occupancy there, said Mampang Prapatan district head Jaharudin.
The houses, handily transformed into makeshift quarantine facilities, are just two of the many buildings being prepared by the Jakarta administration to temporarily house people who cannot self-isolate or are suspected of transmitting COVID-19.
Last month, Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan instructed his city officials to submit a list of buildings readily available to be converted into isolation facilities.
According to the Jakarta Governance Bureau, Jakarta’s five municipalities and its one regency have proposed a total of 253 sites that can be converted into communal isolation shelters.
Officials have scoured the city for potential isolation houses to anticipate a lack of facilities, as the number of cases still climbs in the capital despite weak government claims of a leveling off in the rate of COVID-19 infections.
The buildings range from official residences to sports fields and training centers, as well as schools and child-friendly public spaces (RPTRA).
The move also follows a decision in March to convert Wisma Atlet Kemayoran, the former athletes village in Central Jakarta, into a makeshift hospital with a capacity to take in 3,000 patients who are asymptomatic or show only mild COVID-19 symptoms. As of Monday, Wisma Atlet had hosted over 850 patients.
Jakarta has 714 intensive care units and 657 isolation wards spread across 190 hospitals. Of this figure, only 172 hospitals are allowed to take in suspected patients while only 100 hospitals qualify to care for confirmed cases.
As of Tuesday, Jakarta had 4,687 cases with 409 deaths.
The capital has recorded a cumulative total of 3,095 people who tested positive for COVID-19 and patients treated in hospital.
The rest of the confirmed cases have gone into self-quarantine, while another 228 people are under surveillance, although their whereabouts and whether or not they have self-isolated are unknown.
The Jakarta Health Agency will be examining the proposed sites to ensure they meet health standards for quarantine before use, while the administration continues to prioritize sending patients to referral hospitals and the Wisma Atlet facility.
It remains unclear how many buildings have been given the green light, but the agency’s public health department head Fify Mulyani said that task forces had been set up to prepare sites in all areas except West Jakarta and the Thousand Islands regency.
“[Preparations] are under way,” Fify told The Jakarta Post on Monday.
Based on the agency-approved guidelines, a communal isolation house should either be a permanent or semi-permanent building equipped with bathroom and kitchen facilities, as well as adequate air circulation and access to electricity and clean water.
Authorities must also have systems in place to keep the facility secure.
Mampang Prapatan’s Jaharudin said medical workers were allowed to take up residency at the two official residences in Pela Mampang and Bangka because no local residents were flagged for isolation.
Jaharudin had also put in a request to convert a local 360-room training facility under the government’s management.
“It is important to have the building’s owner and the community from the surrounding area agree with the proposal,” he said.
“It’s all about the stigma; some people think that the disease is transmitted through the air, but someone under quarantine is prohibited from going outside, right?”
Densely populated Jakarta continues to be the national epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, helped along by minimal knowledge of the disease and a significant number of workers who cannot afford to shelter in place.
Mayors in Jakarta have acknowledged the issue, saying public support is of utmost importance.
In North Jakarta, the local government plans to convert a number of buildings, including two empty towers in the Nagrak low-cost rental apartment (Rusunawa) complex in Cilincing.
Local officials have given an assurance that the intended isolation houses located 500 meters away from other occupied towers are far enough.
“Even if there are empty units in other low-cost apartments, we wouldn’t recommend them to be used [as isolation rooms] so as to keep other tenants safe,” said Parjoko, the acting chief of the Jakarta Housing and Settlement Agency.
Meanwhile, the city’s education agency has proposed the use of 136 school buildings, which has sparked criticism among Jakarta councillors.
Council Speaker Prasetyo Edi Marsudi from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) demanded that the administration pull the plug on that plan, fearing further viral transmission as many schools are located in residential areas.
Only one school in Tidung Island in Thousand Islands has reportedly been used to house five people under surveillance.
The city’s governance bureau head Premi Lasari acknowledged that there were objections at the neighborhood level.
“There was some opposition, but we managed to disseminate information [about the plan] in a persuasive manner with the help of the authorities, local figures and community health center officers,” Premi said.
The chairman of the Jakarta RT/RW Forum, Muhammad Irsyad, also played down objections at the community level, arguing that they mostly came down to a lack of knowledge about the disease.
“There’s no need to worry because isolation shelters have their own health standards,” Irsyad insisted.
“When there are no more [sheltering patients, authorities] will sterilize the property before returning it into its original state.”