A man walks on a pedestrian bridge at Jalan Jendral Sudirman in Jakarta last week. (Antara Photo/Aprillio Akbar)

Gov't Sticks to Current Covid-19 Game Plan Until Vaccine Arrives


OCTOBER 20, 2020

Jakarta. A relatively milder recession and lower death rate than other countries have convinced the government to stay on its plan to guide this country out of the Covid-19 pandemic, a senior official said on Tuesday. 

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo decided early on to take a two-pronged approach in handling this pandemic to balance the health protocols, like lockdowns and travel bans, with their economic impacts, almost to a fault that placed his administration under heavy criticism from epidemiologists health practitioners. 


Seven months into the pandemic, Indonesia's economic performance remains among the best globally while reporting one of the pandemic's lowest death rates. 

"Indonesia is one of the countries experiencing a moderate economic slowdown. Many other countries are experiencing a more severe slump,” Kartika Wirjoatmodjo, a deputy minister of  State-Owned Enterprises, said. 

Southeast Aisa's largest economy shrank by 5.3 percent in April to June period from the same period a year ago, a sharp turn from a 2.9 percent expansion in the first quarter, as large scale social restrictions (PSBB) put in place to stem the spread of Covid-19 hampered economic activities. 

Since then, the government has eased the restrictions and allow most people to return to work and travel. 

The Finance Ministry now expected that the country to have shrunk further by only 1 or 2 percent in the third quarter, another declining output for the second consecutive quarter that would qualify the country for a recession. The Central Statistics Agency (BPS) will announce the official third-quarter data on Nov 5. 

Still, Indonesia fared better than its peers in Group of 20. Brazil reported a 9.7 percent fall in the gross domestic product (GDP) in the second quarter. India's GDP shrunk by 25 percent. 

A Rp 695.2 trillion ($47-billion) stimulus packages from the government also helped prop up the economy. Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said on Monday that the government had spent half of the stimulus, mostly on social safety net like conditions cash transfers for the poor and unemployment benefits.

On the other hand, Indonesia saw fewer deaths from Covid-19 compared to its peers. The country reported only 12,734 total confirmed deaths on Tuesday, equal to 46 deaths per million of its population.  

That put Indonesia's death rate in 107th place among 215 countries and territories tracked by statistics website Wordlometer on Tuesday. Brazil was in 7th place, with 724 deaths per million of the population, the United States in 10th (679), and India in 82nd, with 83 deaths per million people. Indonesia's figure, however, did not include the number of deaths in suspected cases. 

"So there is one thing to be grateful for: the handling efforts that combine the 'gas and brake' has kept Indonesia in the current condition. We hope that we can maintain these efforts until the vaccine arrives and can be distributed to all communities," Kartika, who also serves in the government's Covid-19 Handling Task Force, said.

The government has placed orders for 160 million vaccine doses from China's Sinovac Biotech, the China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm), and Britain's pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. It plans to start vaccinating people as soon as next month. 

The public also seemed to support the government's current approach. More than 60 percent of Indonesians are satisfied with the Covid-19 handling, according to a survey conducted by a research firm Indikator Politik Indonesia last month. President Jokowi saw a bump in his approval rating for the first time since last year, the survey showed.