Indonesia is facing an uphill challenge during its transition to a new normal, with people in many cities joining crowds, disobeying health protocols, and resisting mass testing for the coronavirus.
The national Covid-19 task force highlighted yesterday various incidents – ranging from people hijacking the body of a coronavirus patient being transported by hospital staff to a grave site, to market traders shunning mass testing and a nightclub urging patrons to delete social media posts of a party the night before.
“Please take down every post ASAP and ask any friend of yours to also do the same! We count on you today so that we can all party again tomorrow,” read the appeal from Le Giant Pool & Bar that went viral and quickly caught the authorities’ attention.
More than a hundred family members and neighbours in Ambon city, Maluku province, last Friday intercepted an ambulance – guarded by two police officers – carrying the body of a 58-year-old former parliamentarian to a designated grave site for people with Covid-19.
The mob who overpowered the police officers took out the corpse and left the coffin on the street.
In another case, in East Java’s Surabaya earlier this month, the relatives of a woman who died of Covid-19 descended on a hospital morgue, picked up her corpse along with the hospital mattress and took her home.
Medical staff accompanied by hospital security officers who later visited the mourning family’s home to apply a Covid-19 burial procedure were told to leave.
Four sons and in-laws of the dead woman later tested positive for Covid-19 and were declared crime suspects by the police for flouting criminal and health quarantine laws. They may face a jail term of at least five years.
“Cases of family members forcibly carrying off suspected Covid-19 bodies of their loved ones are one reason why the number of infections in East Java continued to increase,” the national Covid-19 task force chief Doni Monardo said.
Last Friday, East Java surpassed Jakarta’s number of total infections for the first time after the province, with a population of more than 40 million, recorded 10,901 total infections against the capital’s 10,796.
In Pekanbaru, Riau province, wet market traders, including those in Sukaramai centre, chose to close shop and go home when officers in hazmat suits turned up to conduct a mass swab testing. This also happened in other markets in other cities including Jakarta, where traders said they were worried they would be barred from working for weeks if they tested positive.
The Riauonline news website on Friday reported that Riau launched massive testing at traditional wet markets after the local authorities detected that the province was entering a second wave of coronavirus infections.
Based on the rising number of cases in the past week, the second wave could be larger than the first that ended in mid-May, Riauonline reported, citing Mr Mulyadi, spokesman for Pekanbaru’s Covid-19 task force.
Earlier last week, the Jakarta administration suspended again a weekend car-free day along its main thoroughfare Thamrin-Sudirman, when residents get to bike and jog in the morning on the road. The weekly car-free day was restarted only the previous week, after it was suspended in mid-March.
The administration made the decision following reports of people congregating and forming large crowds when the event was first reopened.
Cities and provinces across Indonesia, including Jakarta, have moved gradually to ease restrictive measures this month after the sprawling regions were placed under partial lockdowns. The country declared its first coronavirus infections in early March.
Indonesia yesterday reported its biggest daily increase in infections with 1,198 new cases, taking the total to 54,010. There were 34 more deaths, taking the total number of fatalities to 2,754.
During what is called the transition phase to a new normal, workplaces, places of worship and shopping centres have been gradually allowed to open with strict health guidelines, which include operating at 50 per cent capacity and ensuring people maintain a 1m distance from one another.