Written by : Rizki Chairunnisa, Research Intern
According to the World Health Organization, the growing number of COVID-19 cases have reached more than 150,000 cases globally by mid-March 2020. In Indonesia, the government first announced the first cases located in Depok, West Java, on March 2, 2020. After that, the number of positive cases grew rapidly, and as per March 23, more than 500 cases were found in DKI Jakarta, West Java, Central Java, Yogyakarta, Bali, and Pontianak. Per March 23, 49 patients have been cured and 32 patients have died. Various policies have been enacted by the central and regional governments to try and tackle the spread of COVID-19. W.H.O has sent a letter to the Indonesian president to declare this pandemic as a national disaster. The government has also instructed social distancing, online study, and work from home to reduce the spread of the virus.
This pandemic has changed many sectors and forced people to adapt in short amount of time. We should learn from our mistakes and draw lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic to be used in future crises.
1. STAY AT HOME – Public Health is Everyone’s Responsibility
Public health is everyone’s responsibility, especially in the instance of a worldwide pandemic. The first and most important thing everyone can do right now is STAY HOME! Practicing social distancing, avoid mass gatherings of more than 10 people, and shutting down non-essential businesses and practices are important steps to take. Other methods that are important to keep in mind are regularly washing hands with soap for 20 seconds, changing clothes after going outside, and avoid touching your face. By doing social distancing and self-hygiene, we prevent the further spread of the virus. Some people are misinterpreting social distancing as holiday and vacation since they are off from school or work and are using this opportunity to explore around the city. This is wrong and could make things even worse. Staying at home and isolating, limiting interactions between people, is proven to slow the spread of the virus.
It is also important to remember that while young and healthy people may feel like the virus cannot affect them as much, we need to work together to protect vulnerable populations such as elders, children, and people with underlying conditions. Also, young people and children are not immune. They are just as susceptible to being infected with the virus, and even though they are dying at a lower rate, they’re still dying. Covoid-19 is a public health issue, and we all have stake in it. We all have to take responsibility and do our parts by staying at home.
2. Quick response
A quick response is needed to stop the spread of a pandemic. In this case, we need to learn from Singapore and Taiwan. They both quickly implemented a travel ban from mainland China, encouraged social distancing and self-isolating, and closed all non-essential businesses early on their outbreak, despite knowing the economic losses. Since the first case of the corona was found in Singapore, the government quickly implemented several policies. The government created and distributed enough Covoid-19 tests for those suffering from pneumonia or flu-like symptoms free of charge. They used contact tracing methods of suspected patients by utilizing apps or the police to test and quarantine potential Covoid-19 patients who were in contact with the original person. They strictly isolate suspected of Covid-19 patients and implement penalties for violations.
The same measures were taken in Taiwan. Since they had experience with the SARS pandemic in 2003, they were well-prepared for Covoid-19. They established a command centre for the epidemic. Since the first case was discovered on 20th of January, 2020, the government immediately implemented 124 actions such as border controls, school and work closures, public communications plans and resource assessments of hospitals. As a result, they have less than 100 cases as of mid-March.
3. Communication is the key
Communication between the government and the public is crucial. The public needs to have trust in political leadership to have a handle on the situation for not only their physical health, but mental health as well.
Leader’s communication skills need to deliver accurate and up to date information to the public. Leaders and the government should be honest, open, and transparent about the real conditions of their respective countries. Leaders should involve the grassroots stakeholders such as the head of household groups (RT and RW in Indonesia) to deliver the information and instructions to be understood by the local community. When the communication is clear, the public will put confidence in the government that they are taking this pandemic seriously. Also, openness and transparent information are needed to avoid the spread of rumours that cause even more unnecessary anxiety.
4. Be wise!
During times of uncertainty, people often become anxious and scared, making rash decisions. There is a lot of information being spread about the virus through social media and the news, making it difficult to discern what is real and what is fake. But we have to do our best to remain calm and try to make the best decisions for our families and communities. By slowing down, taking a breath, and focusing on our decisions, we can make wise choices. Take time to analyse the information before making decision. The decisions should be based on a credible source of information and discussion. Take your time when making decisions. Making quick decisions may reduce your current anxiety, but they are likely to create more problems in the future.
It is easier indeed said than done. But we as an individuals, and as part of the community, can work hand in hand to help each other and government to fight the virus. We must be aware of and take action to protect each other. By doing collaboration action we can solve this crisis and eliminate the number of cases.