A woman wearing a surgical mask walks on Jalan M.H. Thamrin in Central Jakarta on Saturday. (Antara Photo/M. Risyal Hidayat)

Healthy Indonesians Should Wear Masks to Prevent Coronavirus: Gov't


APRIL 06, 2020

Jakarta. The government is now telling Indonesians to wear some type of nose and mouth covering at all times in public places in an attempt to curb the spread of Covid-19, reversing its earlier advice that healthy people do not need to wear a mask amid a shortage of protective equipment for medical workers. 

"Everyone must wear a mask now," the government's Covid-19 Task Force spokesman Achmad Yurianto said in a press conference on Sunday. 

Yuri said people should wear a cloth mask when they leave the house for no more than four hours and then wash it with detergent.

A 2013 paper published in the Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness journal by Cambridge University Press said homemade masks made from double-layered cotton t-shirts, cotton cloths or tea towels can block more than 70 percent of aerosols from one's mouth.

In comparison, surgical masks filter more than 96 percent of the aerosols, according to the study. 

Yuri said surgical masks and N95 respirator masks should only be used by healthcare workers, for now.

Indonesia produces 181 million pieces of these masks per month, barely enough for what hospitals around the country need during the pandemic.

The general public should wear a cloth mask instead of a surgical one, Yuri said. 

"This is important [to do], because we never know if people without symptoms [but have contracted coronavirus] are out there," Yuri said.

In February, the Health Ministry said only people showing Covid-19 symptoms, which include fever, dry cough, tiredness and difficulty breathing, should wear a mask, in an attempt to stop people from hoarding surgical and N95 masks.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also used to stand by the recommendation, saying that a mask was only essential for people taking care of Covid-19 patients, and only effective if used in tandem with frequent hand washing with soap or sanitizers. 

However, the WHO has since reversed its stance and now recommend mask-wearing by the general public after countries like the Czech Republic, South Korea and Japan, where most people wear masks almost everywhere they go, showed better performance in containing the coronavirus than countries that shun the protective gear for general public use. 

Jakarta, the epicenter of Indonesia's Covid-19 spread, has taken notice from those countries. Starting Monday, all passengers on the city's light rail transport (LRT), mass rapid transport (MRT) and commuter line train (KRL) must wear a mask before boarding. 

"We will make public announcements of the new rule until April 11. Starting April 12, a person not wearing a mask will not be allowed to enter the stations to inhibit the spread of the coronavirus," Arnold Kindangen, the corporate secretary of LRT Jakarta, said.

Kereta Commuter Indonesia's spokesman, Adli Hakim, and MRT Jakarta's corporate secretary, Muhamad Kamaluddin, said the same rule will apply on their networks. 

Adli said according to the Covid-19 Task Force's recommendations, people traveling on public transportation can wear homemade double-layer cotton masks with tissue paper inserts to reduce the risk of getting infected through droplets from asymptomatic carriers