by Bambang Purwanto
JAKARTA, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- Indonesia has to resort to public health rather than economic endeavors following the inception of the Committee on the COVID-19 Mitigation and Economic Recovery on Aug. 20.
With the committee, the government was previously seen as more concerned with economics than health given that the Indonesian economy continued to tumble down, but consequently the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the archipelagic country kept rising.
Trubus Rahadiansyah, a public policy observer with Trisakti University in Jakarta, said the committee with Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Erlangga Hartarto serving as its chairman would concentrate more on handling the economic recovery than mitigating the COVID-19.
The committee was intended to marginalize the health sector in the effort to cope with the novel coronavirus pandemic in the country, he told the CNNIndonesia recently.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo was aware of reverting the way from prioritizing the economy to giving substance more to public health.
He then ordered the committee, the Health Ministry, the State Armed Forces and the State Police to focus on COVID-19 mitigation before economic recovery.
"It means that we keep focusing on health, namely on the COVID-19 mitigation. It is the key," Widodo told a cabinet meeting early this week.
The economic condition will be good if the public health condition is ameliorating, he said, underscoring that efforts to recover the domestic economy would much depend on the results of the application of policies on the COVID-19 mitigation.
Widodo also urged the Health Ministry to make a comprehensive design on measures to mitigate the pandemic including building labs in every province in the country.
He also reminded that the authorities anticipate further spreads of the deadly virus to offices, families and areas where regional elections will take place and other public places which would likely become new clusters of the virus.
The committee's chairman Hartarto said on Thursday that the government pledged to maximize all the health facilities nationwide, including those in the capital of Jakarta which has decided to re-impose a partial lockdown policy as the number of cases is surging.
"The government has sufficient funds and will persistently raise the capacity of (hospitals') rooms to meet the demands," he told a virtual press briefing.
In addition, Hartarto said the government will increase the capacity of athlete dormitory-turned hospital in Jakarta's sub-district of Kemayoran and set up more isolation rooms at emergency health facilities designated for the COVID-19 patients.
"The facilities including the number of rooms will be boosted. The government stresses that there are no limited health facilities," he said, adding that several hotels might also be converted into health facilities to deal with the lingering virus pandemic.
To meet the president's order, Hartarto also announced a campaign of "Let Us Keep Distances and Avoid Crowds," which is effective from Sept. 7 to Oct. 6.
The Health Ministry said on Saturday that the COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 3,806 within one day to 214,746, with the death toll adding by 106 to 8,650.
According to the ministry, 2,241 more people were discharged from hospitals, bringing the total number of recovered patients to 152,458.
The drastic daily increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Indonesia has prompted some 59 countries and regions to warn their citizens not to visit the country, and ban Indonesians from entering those countries.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi admitted several countries and regions have restricted entry of Indonesian visitors.
"We also call on the Indonesian citizens not to make foreign trips except for urgent needs," she said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has reportedly asked Indonesia to review the measures it has been taking as the number of the country's COVID-19 cases continues to rise.
Legislator Syaifullah Tamliha worries that the fact that Indonesians are banned from entering some countries and regions will give negative impacts on Indonesia's image in the international community.
He believes that Indonesia will be then viewed as an undisciplined country in applying the health protocols under the WHO guidance.
According to him, this perception could affect Indonesia's economy and stock market as well as the value of the country's rupiah against foreign currencies.
He also suggested the government pay special attention to the implementation of upcoming regional elections which could trigger new clusters of the COVID-19 as there would be people in throngs from political campaigns to polling activities.
Jerry Massie, executive director of the Political and Public Policy Studies, told the Sindonews.com website that tactical and strategic measures should be taken besides improving the inconsistent regulations on the fight against COVID-19 as they tend to change at any time. Enditem