Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto during a teleconference on Monday. (Photo courtesy of the Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs)

Gov't to Use Pandemic Reproduction Number to Evaluate Reopening of the Economy

BY :NUR YASMIN

MAY 19, 2020

Jakarta. The Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs is formulating a scoring system to determine if a region is ready for reopening under the coronavirus pandemic

"The president has ordered us to come up with a formula to determine a region's preparedness in facing a crisis," Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto said on Monday.

"We will devise a scoring mechanism based either on calculating the reproduction rate [of an epidemic] or the region's readiness in terms of containing the disease, monitoring virus spread or health service capacity," Airlangga said.

The reproduction rate of an infectious disease represents the average number of people who will get contracted with the disease from an infected person. 

R0, pronounced R naught, represents the basic reproduction number if the disease is let loose without any interventions.

According to a study published in the scientific journal "Emerging Infectious Disease" in April, the R0 for Covid-19 is 5.7, which means a person with the virus can infect around 5 to 6 people.

As a comparison, the 2009 swine flu's R0 was 1.4-1.6.

Interventions, like patient isolation or regional lockdown, usually reduce the reproduction rate.

Epidemiologists call this actual rate of transmission at any given time as the real-time reproduction rate or Rt. 

If a region still has an Rt bigger than 1, it means each infection causes one other case or more and still has the potential to cause an outbreak.

An Rt of 1 means each infection causes just one other new infection and that the disease will linger.

An Rt of less than 1 means each infection causes less than one new case and the outbreak is likely to taper off and then disappear.

If a province has an Rt of less than 1, it might be ready for the "new normal" and can reopen its economy, according to the ministry.

The current scoring mechanism for a national crisis comprises five levels, from critical (very unprepared), severe (unprepared), substantial (partly prepared), moderate (mostly prepared) and low (prepared at all fronts). 

Several provinces, including Jakarta, have been using this formula, and the National Development Agency has also been using it nationwide. 

Minister Airlangga said each business sector will prepare a standard operating procedure for a reopening of the economy.

The National Covid-19 Task Force will coordinate the SOPs.

So far, this is the government's exit strategy to revive a national economy that has come to an almost complete standstill since the implementation of the large-scale social restriction (PSBB).

'Living in Peace' With Covid-19

President Jokowi has already intimated that he wanted Indonesians to "live in peace" with Covid-19.

According to data from the Central Statistics Agency, 70.5 million workers in the informal sector made up 56 percent of all workers in Indonesia in 2019.

Many of them worked for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which contributed 60 percent of the national GDP.

"There will be a new normal for industries, schools, restaurants, hotels, religious activities and transportation. We will issue a circular for each sector once we've done the study," Airlangga said.

"Time for the reopening and the stages involved will be announced once the study is completed. We'll take into account the characteristics of each region, the state of their health service and how ready are our ministries and state agencies. The public also needs to be more disciplined [in following the PSBB guidelines]," Airlangga said.

On May 7, a poster showing the five stages to revive the economy from the Covid-19 crisis went viral on the internet.  

The ministry claimed the poster was only part of a scenario being discussed by the government.

The scenario does comprise five phases:

Phase 1 (June 1): industries and services to resume operations by observing Covid-19 health protocol.

Phase 2 (June 8): malls to reopen by observing Covid-19 health protocol.

Phase 3 (June 15): malls to open as normal. Hair salons, spas and similar businesses will need more evaluation before reopening. Schools to reopen in shifts. 

Phase 4 (July 6): evaluating reopening of restaurants, cafés, gyms, tourism and religious activities with pre-determined limits on visitors. 

Phase 5 (July 20–27): evaluating reopening of large-scale social activities.

According to this scenario, all economic activities will resume by late July or early August.

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