Jokowi defends government's Covid-19 policy as calls for lockdown intensify

Source – June 27, 2021
Patients being treated in tent converted into intensive care unit outside Bekasi hospital – June 25, 2021 (Antara)

Wahyuni Sahara, Jakarta – A number of parties ranging from medical experts to politicians are urging the government to reapply large scale social restrictions (PSBB) or a lockdown to contain the surge in Covid-19 cases.

The call was made looking at the deeply worrying Covid-19 situation in Indonesia. On June 26 Indonesia broke its own previous record with 21,095 new infections in a day, the highest since the pandemic began.

One of those urging the government to implement PSBB is Eijkman-Oxford Clinical Research Unit (EOCRU) researcher Iqbal Elyazar. According to Elyazar, PSBB is the best way to bring down the number of Covid-19 cases in Indonesia.

The Indonesian Public Health Experts Association (IAKMI) has also urged the government to immediately enforce a lockdown as has been the case in other countries that have succeeded in getting past the peak of Covid-19 epidemic.

House of Representatives (DPR) Commission IX member Netty Prasetiyani from the Justice and Prosperity Party (PKS) has also urged the government have the courage to apply tight PSBB or a lockdown in regions designated as red zones.

Calls for a PSBB have also come from five doctor's associations, namely the Indonesian Association of Pulmonologists (PDPI), the Association of Physicians Internal Medicine Specialist of Indonesia (Papdi), the Indonesian Pediatric Society (IDAI), the Indonesian Anesthesiology and Intensive Therapy Association (Perdatin) and the Indonesian Cardiologist Association (Perki).

Surabaya Airlangga University (Unair) epidemiology expert Dr Windhu Purnomo has also asserted that what is needed in Indonesia at the moment is PSBB, not micro enforcement of restrictions on public activities (PPKM), which he says are clearly not effective.

Recommendations welcomed

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has welcomed the recommendations from experts on a lockdown or reimposing PSBB. According to Widodo however, micro PPKM is the best option at the moment.

This is because the government believes that micro PPKM will be able to control the spread of Covid-19 without killing the people's economy.

Widodo asserted that micro PPKM and a lockdown are essentially the same, namely restricting social activities.

Too expensive

In addition to this, the government has not taken the option of a lockdown because it considers it too expensive. During an interview by journalist Najwa Shihab on the TV Mata Najwa talk show on Wednesday April 22, 2020, Widodo once revealed the budget estimate for a lockdown.

Widodo said that budget required would be as much as 550 billion rupiah per day, and this said Widodo, would only be for Jakarta province alone.

Shihab then asked Widodo if this shows that the government does not have enough funds to apply a lockdown.

Widodo denied this. He said that the government does not want to imitate other countries which have enforced lockdowns to break the chain of infection.

This is because, according to Widodo, there is no country which has successfully broken the chain of Covid-19 infections with a lockdown.

If calculated by multiplying the 34 provinces in Indonesia, the total cost required by the government for a lockdown would be around 18.7 trillion rupiah a day. And of course this figure is only an estimate.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Ramai-ramai Mendesak Pemerintah untuk PSBB atau Lockdown".]