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Jakarta Post

Concerns mount over reopening of offices, malls as Indonesia steps into 'new normal'

  • Ghina Ghaliya
    Ghina Ghaliya

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, May 26, 2020   /   07:48 pm
Concerns mount over reopening of offices, malls as Indonesia steps into 'new normal' President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (third left) stands at the entrance gate to Bundaran HI MRT station in Jakarta as he delivers a statement for the press on Tuesday. Jokowi, who was accompanied by Indonesian Military (TNI) commander Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto, National Police chief National Police chief Gen. Idham Azis and Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, inspected several public spots on Tuesday as Indonesia embraces the “new normal” to coexist with COVID-19. (Antara/Sigid Kurniawan/POOL)

Concerns are mounting over the government’s approach to reopening public places while urging citizens to embrace the “new normal” as numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise across the country.

Lawmakers have questioned the government's decision to ease large-scale social restrictions (PSBB), saying COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to increase across many provinces.

“Streets, markets, malls, workplaces will be crowded again and the virus could continue to spread," a member of House of Representatives Commission IX overseeing health Saleh Daulay of the National Mandate Party (PAN), said on Tuesday.

Saleh referred to measures announced by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on Tuesday and Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto in a decree on health protocols in the new normal over the weekend.

On Tuesday, President Jokowi visited a mall in Bekasi, West Java, and the Bundaran HI MRT station in Central Jakarta in preparation for easing the PSBB as he encouraged people to coexist with the virus.

The government has also begun discussing with experts the implementation of new normal guidance in schools.

Saleh added that the implementation of the PSBB in several regions was not strict enough so that such guidance would not be helpful.

“For example, the Health Minister’s decree on offices and manufacturers’ operations. It contains the usual measures that have been implemented by the community. It’s not new and can’t be considered as a new policy to support the new normal.”

“The regulation only justifies people violating the PSBB,” he said.

The Indonesian Consumers Foundation (YLKI) said it was too early for the government to adjust to a new normal, especially in Jakarta, the country’s COVID-19 epicenter. Malls in the capital should not immediately reopen following the end of Jakarta’s PSBB on June 4, it added

"The YLKI calls on the public not to visit malls before the situation is completely safe,” YLKI chairman Tulus Abadi said, citing the huge potential for violations of the new normal guidance.

“We should first resolve the widespread infection of the virus before solving the economic effects,” he added.

The deputy chairwoman of Commission IX, Nihayatul Wafiroh, said the government should make sure the new normal is safe for everyone and there should be no more policy flip-flops.

“Maybe the government thinks that it’s time to tolerate [greater mobility], but we should remain cautious by following the guidance. This is to sustain the economy,” the National Awakening Party (PKB) politician said.

Achmad Baidowi of the United Development Party (PPP) said both public health and the economy were equally important so that the new normal guidance should be immediately implemented in all public places.

Chairman of House Commission X overseeing education Syaiful Huda called on the government to be careful in planning for the reopening of schools as the virus transmission remained high.

“Forcing schools to reopen will endanger the students and teachers […] Indonesian Doctors Association data show that 129 children have died with COVID-19 symptoms and 14 children who have died tested positive for COVID-19 infection,” he said.