The Jakarta Post
With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the world and Indonesia, Siau Tagulandang Biaro (Sitaro) Islands regency in North Sulawesi has become a rare case of a region with a very low rate of infection.
The first confirmed case of COVID-19 was only recorded in the regency that comprises Siau, Tagulandang and Biaro islands, in June, after a resident who had just returned from the provincial capital of Manado tested positive for the deadly virus.
As of Thursday, the regency, which has a population of 73,584, had one COVID-19 patient under treatment, while 34 patients had recovered and one had died.
Meanwhile, North Sulawesi had recorded 4,868 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Thursday, with 185 fatalities.
According to Sitaro Regent Evangelian Sasingen, her strategy for keeping the region COVID-19-free until June was to impose preventive measures before the central government announced the first COVID-19 in Indonesia.
“At every entrance there were strict examinations. At the beginning, we didn’t have personal protective equipment, so we wore raincoats instead”, she said in a statement published on the national COVID-19 task force’s website on Thursday.
After the first case in the regency was announced, an infection cluster was detected at a market, prompting Evangelian to lock down the market temporarily while the area was disinfected.
Her administration also traced the contacts of the patient, which lead them to one subdistict. Whenever a reactive result was recorded from an initial test, the suspected carrier was taken to the Rumah Singgah shelter home, which the administration has turned into isolation center.
In addition to setting up an isolation center, she also established COVID-19 task forces at every level of the community from district to subdistrict, village to hamlet. The task forces are in charge of monitoring all newcomers to their respective areas.
"All newcomers are obliged to undergo isolation for two weeks,” Eva said.
Traditional leader of Sitaro Islands regency Erland Jaya Salindeho added that cooperation between the regional administration, traditional leaders and the community had been optimal.
The challenge they faced was how to engage remote hamlets.
“We addressed the issue by establishing traditional institutions who are in charge of educating and empowering residents and mitigating disasters,” Eva said.
For their efforts at curbing COVID-19, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency gave an award to Sitaro regency on Thursday.
According to a risk map published on the national COVID-19 task force’s website, as of Oct. 11 there were 11 “low risk” green zones that had recorded zero cases of COVID-19 and 14 regions that were not affected by COVID-19. (iwa)
Editor’s note: This article is part of a public campaign by the COVID-19 task force to raise people’s awareness about the pandemic.