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Jakarta Post

'Pak' Jokowi, the coronavirus has hit home

  • Kurniawan Hari

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, March 21, 2020   /   08:05 am
'Pak' Jokowi, the coronavirus has hit home A visitor wears face mask upon visiting an art exhibition in Surakarta, Central Java on March 8, 2020. (Antara/Maulana Surya)

Another COVID-19 patient died in Surakarta, Central Java, on Wednesday, bringing the total number of deaths caused by the coronavirus in the city to two. Her body was taken directly from the morgue to the cemetery for burial that night without the presence of her neighbors to avoid further spread of the disease.

The mother of two was a beauty stylist from Jatipurno district, Wonogiri regency, some 60 kilometers southeast of Surakarta. She happened to be on the same bus and at the same event as another COVID-19 patient who died in Surakarta days ago.

The woman attended a seminar on economic empowerment in Bogor, West Java, in late February. Her husband drove her to Surakarta where she joined a friend on the bus to Bogor.

Three days later, after the seminar ended, she returned to Surakarta by bus, which could carry about 30 passengers. If the woman had already contracted the virus, she could have transmitted it to other passengers and, eventually, to the people they encountered.

From Surakarta, the woman from Jatipurno made the rest of her journey by car. We do not know if she made any stops on the way home from Surakarta to Wonogiri. This information is needed to track the possible spread of the virus.

Over the next three days, she spent time with her family and interacted with neighbors before beginning to feel ill. She had a cough, a high fever, chills and nausea. Because her condition did not improve, she went to a few different health clinics, starting from a nearby clinic, then another clinic in the district and then a hospital in the regency before she was told to get more intensive treatment at Moewardi Hospital in Surakarta, where she died.

My mother was treated at the same hospital in the days before her death in August 2006. I still feel sad every time I pass the hospital, just as the above woman’s children must feel.

The hospital is about 4 kilometers, or a 15-minute drive, from the home of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

This is a reminder that the threat of the virus in Surakarta is now more significant and that everybody, including the members of the First Family living in the city, are at risk of infection.

Surakarta Mayor FX Hadi Rudyatmo declared a citywide emergency, or an “extraordinary occurrence” (KLB), on March 13 after learning that the male patient who had died on March 11 and the other woman had tested positive for COVID-19. Local authorities shut schools, offices and public places to curb the spread of the pneumonia-like disease.

The mayor said the KLB status would be in place at least until an evaluation slated for March 29. He pledged to extend the status if there were an increase in the number of coronavirus patients. Authorities have declared KLBs in past emergencies such as earthquakes and the avian flu, and this could allow them to explore preventative measures without raising any unproductive controversy over the term “lockdown”.

On Thursday, Jokowi, a former mayor of Surakarta, said he had no plans to impose a partial or national lockdown, even in the capital, despite the fact that 70 percent of COVID-19 fatalities were in Jakarta.

As of Friday, Indonesia had recorded 369 cases of the illness and 32 deaths. Even if all of the patients’ previous contacts could be traced, the virus would likely spread further before those contacts could be located and tested.

Before the patient from Jatipurno tested positive for COVID-19 at Moewardi Hospital, the woman had undergone regular health checks at clinics and a hospital in Wonogiri because nobody knew she was positive for the disease. Now, several doctors, nurses and neighbors who were in contact with her are under monitoring.

The earlier patient died after days of hospitalization at Moewardi Hospital. The result of his swab test was released two days after his death. He was positive.

Because the test result was released two days after his death, his burial, which occurred before then, was attended by neighbors. His body was taken to a local mosque in Mojopurno, Magetan, East Java, for prayers before burial. Now the neighbors and his family members are being isolated, and anxiety has spread to other villagers.

These two deceased patients in Surakarta represent the condition of COVID-19 patients in general: showing symptoms, taking their own initiative to consult physicians and get medical treatment and being found positive for the illness.

However, earlier cases have shown that not all of those affected have symptoms.

Authorities in the central government and in regional administrations should therefore be more proactive in dealing with this outbreak.

Yes, there could be a significant economic cost to drastic measures. But in this pandemic, firm and urgent action will save lives.

Many people have taken the initiative to protect themselves and their families, seeking hand sanitizer, masks and other supplies — so have regional authorities. Now national authorities, especially President Jokowi, must lead the campaign against this outbreak. The coronavirus is getting closer to home, Pak Jokowi.