Since the first case of COVID-19 appeared on 3 March, Indonesia has been very slow in responding to the situation. Even the coalition of civil society urged the president to dismiss the minister of health, as he repetitively denied the scientific evidence of the exponential spread of the virus. In the following two weeks, the government said that they didn’t want to make people panic. However, the government spokesperson for COVID-19 made a public statement that tended to segregate how to respond: “The rich should protect the poor so that the poor can have adequate life, and the poor should protect the rich so that the poor don’t spread the disease.”
Although Indonesia has Law No. 24 Year 2007 on Disaster Management, the national government decided to adopt a policy of large-scale social distancing to avoid the consequences of lockdown or district quarantine in terms of the logistical support that the government should comply. The critique from civil society came because this policy was issued along with the declaration of the “civil emergency”. This term vividly shows the militaristic approach that the government took, rather than an approach prioritising health, in relation to handling the pandemic.
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Image: Mixed media collage depicting a field and crops. Artwork by Flavia Fascendini.