The paradox of fasting month policies, a contradictory approach to curbing Covid-19

CNN Indonesia – April 8, 2021
Crowds of people prepare to board boat during annual Eid homecoming – Undated (Antara)

Jakarta – The government has banned mudik, the annual exodus during the Idul Fitri holidays at the end of the Ramadan fasting month. The prohibition was issued after considering the risk of increasing the spread of Covid-19, which is still high.

On the other hand, the government is allowing people to conduct salat tarawih and salat idulfitri – evening prayers during Ramadan and communal prayers during Idul Fitri. Permission for this is contingent on applying tight health protocols.

As if this is not enough, Tourism and Creative Industries Minister Sandiaga Uno has opened the tap for tourist destinations to open in April. Uno predicts that tourist destinations will be inundated by people because the government has banned mudik.

Trisakti University public policy observer Trubus Rahadiansyah says that these three policies show that the government is applying double standards in its efforts to break the chain of Covid-19 infections.

"This is a paradox, meaning banning one thing but other things happening like this. The government appears ambiguous, [is applying] double standards, or a paradox", said Rahadiansyah when speaking with CNN Indonesia on Thursday April 8.

Rahadiansyah said that the policies being applied at the moment show that the government is focusing more in improving the economy rather than public health. According to Rahadiansyah, the government is not applying the correct formula in banning mudik.

"The government, on the issue of mudik, is overwhelmed, even though it's banned it, how will it do this, the government doesn't have the right formula except to establish mudik coordination posts, wasting the budget ineffectively as well, people who mudik will mudik, right", he said.

According to Rahadiansyah, the public health sector will be under further pressure because the Covid-19 infection rates post Ramadan and Idul Fitri could potentially rise.

Rahadiansyah is calling on the government to postpone efforts to improve the economy and prioritise efforts to improve public healthcare first.

Airlangga University epidemiologist Windhu Purnomo says that the government is always issuing contradictory policies. He concedes to not understanding what commitment the government is adhering to.

"Right from the start the government's policies have often been contradictory over the principle of breaking the chain of infections, and this has dragged on and on. We don't understand what the government's commitment actually is, do they want control of the pandemic as quickly as possible or what", said Purnomo.

Purnomo said that the economic problems are a result of the health problem. According to Purnomo, the economy will improve automatically if the government is able to resolve the health problem.

Purnomo said that the Covid-19 transmission rate in Indonesia has seen a decline because the government is including the results of antigen tests in the daily reports.

He continued saying that based on the results of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) tests, it is known that the Covid-19 positivity rate in Indonesia is still categorised as a "very high incident" rate because as of Monday April 5 it stood at 32 percent and was still categorised as a "high incident" rate on Tuesday April 6 when it stood at 19.5 percent.

"According to the World Health Organisation above 20 percent is a 'very high incident' rate. It's only considered to be under control and categorised as a 'moderate incident' rate at between 2-5 percent. We're still a long way from that", he said.

Opening tourist destinations and allowing people to conduct communal prayers at mosques, he said, is not the right policy. According to Purnomo, this has the potential to increase the Covid-19 transmission rate in Indonesia. (mts/ain)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Paradoks Kebijakan Ramadan, Peta Ambigu Penanganan Covid".]