Office workers cross Jalan Thamrin, one of the main business streets in Central Jakarta, on Aug. 8, 2020. (SP Photo/Joanito De Saojoao)

Ministries, Gov't Institutions Revealed as Top Covid-19 Clusters in Jakarta


SEPTEMBER 19, 2020

Jakarta. The latest data have revealed that the ministries and government institutions' offices as hot spots for the Covid-19 spread in Jakarta, adding pressure on the government to improve its handling on the pandemic. 

Thirteen government offices and institutions were among the top 20 office clusters with the highest number of Covid-19 cases, data from Jakarta city administration showed on Friday. Ministries offices reported 1,223 confirmed cases, with the Health Ministry topped the chart, accumulating 252 cases since March. 

Government institutions, including the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), the General Election Commission (KPU) and the State Development Finance Controller (BPKP), among others, raked a total of 622 cases. Jakarta city government reported 602 cases in their ranks.

Netty Prasetiyani, a lawmaker at the House of Representatives' Commission IX, which oversees health and labor issues, urged the government to lead by example by holding regular testing, tracing and treatment to its employees.


The government must be more open with information on infections among their ranks. As officials often meet many people in a day, "it's crucial to announce which officials had Covid-19 for immediate tracing purposes," Netty said. 

"We don't want the government offices to become the source of Covid-19 spread," Netty said. 

The coronavirus also does not spare high ranking officials. Two ministers in President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's cabinet have confirmed to get infected by the coronavirus, including Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi and Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Minister Edhy Prabowo.  KPU Chairman Arief Budiman said that he had the virus after undergoing a regular test on Thursday. "I am isolating myself at home now," Arief said. 

Jakarta's city secretary Saefullah, 56, died from the Covid-19 on Wednesday. The seasoned bureaucrat served as the city secretary under Jakarta's last four governors, including Jokowi, Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, Djarot Saiful Hidayat, and Anies Baswedan.

Still, some argued that the massive number of cases in government office was due to better access to tests. BPKP, for example, tested 30 percent of its 6,064 employees and found 73 of them infected by the coronavirus. In comparison, Jakarta only able to test 7.5 percent of its population so far. 

"We have carried out swab tests on 1,767 employees, the majority of whom are auditors, to break the chain of Covid-19 spread within BPKP," Eri Satriana, the controller's head of legal and communication division, said on Friday. 

"The number of Covid-19 cases here was so high because we carried out aggressive trackings and swab tests. All positive cases have been declared healthy and allowed to go home," said Eri.

Jakarta's data on Covid-19 clusters showed that lockdowns worked. Night clubs and restaurants did not see many patrons in the past six months, and they only reported fewer than ten cases so far. In contrast, the number of Covid-19 cases exploded in the public and private offices, which the government allowed to open with limited capacity since June.

"It's unlikely that people wearing masks in the office buildings continuously for eight hours straight, so infections happen easily there," Tri Yunis Miko Wahyono, the head of the epidemiology division at the University of Indonesia's school of public health, said on Friday. 

Duty Calls

Achmad Yurianto, the director-general of disease prevention and control at the Health Ministry, said that the nature of the ministry's job demanded its employees to work in high-risk places and meet many Covid-19 suspects, increasing risks of infections.

He said many of the ministry employees involved in the frontlines of the pandemic, like assisting the Port Health Offices to screen passengers, or handling the return of Indonesian migrant workers from overseas. The ministry's employees also monitor the handling of patients at several Covid-19 hospitals, including the Wisma Atlet Emergency Hospital Kemayoran in Central Jakarta, Yurianto said.

"They work in shifts and get tested immediately every time they finish their shift. We told the one tested positive to rest until they recover," Yurianto told the Globe's sister publication on Friday. 

Yurianto said only two out of 252 cases in the ministry ended in deaths due to age and preexisting health conditions.  

"When the office cluster appeared, I put the Health Ministry as a top priority.  We hold all meetings virtually, open all windows to improve air circulation, and require guests to wear masks all the time," said Yurianto.