March 26, 2020
Indonesia: COVID-19 cases continue to surge in the country
The number of COVID-19 cases have reached 790 in Indonesia, with Jakarta recording the highest number of cases as of today. At least 58 have died of the virus in the country so far, putting the death rate at 9.3% which is the highest in the world. The rate of testing for the virus in Indonesia is among the lowest in the world. Only a few thousand tests have been done across an entire population of 270 million people. As of last week, only 1,727 tests had been done, representing one test for every 156,000 people. Those tests have focused on the critically ill. Severe shortages of medical supplies, including protective health gear, have been a common complaint among health workers on the front lines. Reports of doctors being infected with, and subsequently succumbing to, COVID-19 have also continued to surface.
Infectious diseases modeling from the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases (CMMID) in London already suggests the true number of positive cases in Indonesia is in the tens of thousands and could be as high as 250,000 depending on the rate of transmission. The crisis is likely going to get worse. Experts predict that more Indonesians will have been infected by the disease as of Ramadan and Idul Fitri, during which millions of the country’s Muslims typically travel to their hometowns. Some say that Indonesia might not have the testing capability of South Korea, which has used mostly polymerase chain reaction (PCR-based) testing to aggressively trace and isolate infected patients.
Indonesia is continuing to follow the policy of social-distancing instead of a lockdown to deal with the threat from COVID-19. President Joko Widodo continues to stand by his initial statement that the government would not seek to impose any form of lockdown in the country. He says such measures would cause lasting repercussions to the country’s social cohesion and financial stability. The government has however implemented several other measures to tackle the threat from the virus:
- National Police Chief Gen. Idham Aziz recently issued an edict on March 19 urging the public to refrain from mass gatherings in public places or private properties, including social meetings, workshops and family receptions, and allowing police officers to take strict measures against delinquents.
- Jakarta has announced a state of emergency. The administration has since closed all tourism spots and entertainment venues and has limited access to public transportation.
- Papua has restricted entry into the province both through sea and air travel. The travel restrictions exclude the transportation of goods into the province. The policy takes effect today and will be in place for the next 14 days.
- The government has obtained new rapid testing kits. The rapid test, is considered more convenient and can detect whether someone has been infected with COVID-19 quicker than the PCR test.
- Authorities in Central Java are planning to turn a number of public facilities in the region into isolation wards. They would add to the 303 isolation chambers in 58 hospitals that the administration had prepared. The number of COVID-19 cases in Central Java has continued to rise, doubling to 38 with the confirmation of 19 new infections yesterday.
Assessment: The situation is likely to deteriorate in the upcoming days. For regions with apparent community transmission, such as Jakarta, a partial lockdown could be imposed in parallel with mass testing efforts. The said partial lockdown can be imposed at a short notice as has been the case for some other countries. The lockdown would mean that people will not be allowed to step out of their homes unless it is for essential purposes, such as procuring groceries or seeking medical care. The lock down may curb the spread of the virus if it is implemented well enough.
Advice: Clients are advised to avoid all non-essential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or quarantined. Stay indoors as much as possible and practice social distancing. For any essential travel, carry a health clearance certificate to the airport to avoid delays. Be aware of the quickly evolving measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in Indonesia. Expect stricter screening procedures at the airports and try to arrive much earlier at terminals. Verify the validity of visas with the relevant destination authorities in advance.
Be aware, that Indonesia, including Jakarta has limited medical capacity. Evacuations of Expatriates and their families should be considered to ensure access to medical facilities. Many home countries are no longer accepting their citizens. It is now time, for companies in Indonesia with expatriates, to give careful consideration of whether to shelter in place, move to a safe haven in the country of residence or evacuate Expatriates to a center of medical excellence. Consider also evacuating key Indonesian managers and their families if necessary, for future post COVID-19 business sustainability. Note now is the time for careful planning and consideration of your company’s unique circumstances. Clients should seek professional assistance if in-house expertise is not available.
Those in the region must follow the government’s recommendations and imposed measures. Avoid contact with people who have recently gone overseas, especially from countries with high COVID-19 cases, and those displaying symptoms of the disease. Reduce exposure to crowded spaces. Frequently wash hands with soap or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Consult with your doctor if you are experiencing fever, coughing and difficulty in breathing. Monitor alerts and advisories from APAC Assistance.
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Source: APAC Assistance