Effects of COVID-19 in Indonesia: Better Late than Sorry


25 maart 2020
Auteur(s): Nahdah Sholihah
Indonesia, one of the most populated countries in the world, had not reported any positive cases of COVID-19 until fairly recently. But now, with rapid testing the numbers are rising quickly.

by Nara

Contributing Writer & Illustrator

Current situation as of Wednesday 25th of March 2020

  • Confirmed cases: 790
  • With most case in the capital, Jakarta: 463
  • In treatment: 701
  • Recovered: 31
  • Deceased: 58

Map from the Indonesian government with the number of accumulative confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 per province in Indonesia as of 19:00 on Monday 23rd of March 2020.

Indonesia is situated between the continents of Asia and Oceania, it is the largest country in Southeast Asia, and it is the world’s 4th most populated country. Before the first case of coronavirus was reported earlier this month, the country received doubts and criticism for claiming that it was free of the virus. Other than the facts of its location and population, it has close economic ties to China including one of popular destination for Chinese tourists. Critics claim that the situation is underreported, and the country’s health system wasn’t capable of screening and testing properly for the virus.

The surrounding countries, Singapore and Malaysia, had reported positive cases of the virus 2 months before Indonesia reported its first cases.

On the 2nd March 2020, the first positive case of COVID-19 was finally announced by the Indonesian President, Joko Widodo. It seems like everyone, Indonesians and the rest of the world alike, was waiting for this bomb to drop. Although the president claimed that confirmation from the test for the virus had just come in that morning, later it was confirmed that the government had waited to announce the case in order to avoid public panic.

Currently, there are more than 400 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in less than 3 weeks after the first cases were announced. There’s a growing concern that Indonesia will face a massive outbreak and that more than half a million of the population will be affected, which will naturally impact the working class the most. So far, the hardest hit is the capital city, Jakarta, due to people returning from abroad. In the afternoon of Friday 20th of March 2020, the government announced that they have started more rapid forms of testing due to this concern.

Indonesia has a land area of 1,905 million km², which is almost as big as the stretch of land from the UK to Iran, and therefore to apply nationwide measures in response to the coronavirus outbreak is almost impossible, as some areas are more centralized than others.

Many have urged the country to impose a lockdown, but the central government has opted instead for mass rapid testing.

This rapid testing, in contrast to regular tests that require nasal or larynx swabs, requires only blood serum as a sample and can be conducted independently by medical laboratories that have been authorized by the health ministry. Anyone, whether they have the symptoms yet or not, can undergo the test. Lockdown of individual states and areas that are heavily affected by the virus within Indonesia, is only allowed if approved by the central government.

Indonesia has 34 provinces (states), each with their own government, which have had different responses to the situation. Jakarta, being the capital, has been hit the hardest as previously mentioned, with nearly 70 percent of deaths reported corresponding to people from Jakarta.

On Friday 20th of March 2020, the government of Jakarta declared a state of emergency which will apply for 2 weeks (i.e. until the 2nd of April 2020). Previously, over a few days it had released several official measures stated in documents that are accessible online. These measures requested companies and offices in the capital to close all activities if possible and to ask their employees to work from home instead. Advice on social distancing and guidelines for all citizens were also provided by the government. People were told not to go out of their homes unless it is essential, to avoid crowds,  to postpone events (from weddings to religious events), to not go out of town, and to cancel activities at school. 

Also, the most important advice given was to wash your hands, use a face mask and avoid handshakes.

Furthermore, finding a credible source of information is an important issue for a country this big. There are almost 300 main news sites, and each community has their own preference of media. Hence, bias and misinformation spreads easily. However, when it comes to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial to have access to accurate information. As a result, the government, both central and local, has created websites containing advice and the latest updates on the situation.

In addition, since WhatsApp is the most commonly used form of communication in Indonesia, there is also a WhatsApp chatbot which people can just message to receive the latest information.

Official information from the central government of Indonesia here (in Indonesian):

Official information from the local government of Jakarta here (in Indonesian):

Jakarta Tanggap COVID-19

Coronavirus Disease 2019 atau COVID-19 adalah penyakit baru yang dapat menyebabkan gangguan pernapasan dan radang paru. Penyakit ini disebabkan oleh infeksi Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Gejala klinis yang muncul beragam, mulai dari seperti gejala flu biasa (batuk, pilek, nyeri tenggorok, nyeri otot, nyeri kepala) sampai yang berkomplikasi berat (pneumonia atau sepsis).

WhatsApp chatbot: 

+62 811-3339-9000

Latest statement by the Belgian authorities on COVID-19 here.

More information on COVID-19 from the Belgian authorities here.