In early March, as Covid-19 spread across the world and Indonesia’s neighbours rushed to close their borders and economies, Minister for Health Terawan Agus Putranto told local media he couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about, describing the novel coronavirus as less dangerous than the flu. The Health Ministry did not approve Jakarta’s request to begin implementing large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) until early April, and many other regions waited even longer before implementing restrictions.
But since January, epidemiologists at the University of Indonesia and other institutions across the country had been working behind the scenes, trying to convince the government that the pandemic posed a major threat to the country’s inadequate and fragile health services and infrastructure.
Fast forward to June and social restrictions are being eased. While confirmed cases and deaths ascribed to Covid-19 remain well below earlier predictions, cases continue to rise, with some of the largest daily totals recorded over recent weeks. Why are Indonesia’s case numbers relatively low? Is the testing regime adequate? Have the government’s social restrictions regulations been successful? And now that restrictions are being lifted, what does the future hold?
To answer these questions and more is Dr Pandu Riono an epidemiologist from the Faculty of Public Health at the University Indonesia and a member of a team of researchers who carried out some of the earliest modelling of the pandemic in Indonesia.
In 2020, the Talking Indonesia podcast is co-hosted by Dr Jemma Purdey from Monash University and the Australia-Indonesia Centre, Dr Dave McRae from the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute, Dr Charlotte Setijadi from Singapore Management University and Dr Dirk Tomsa from La Trobe University.
Photo by Central Java Provincial Public Relations.