Indonesian President Joko Widodo has called on his government to step up efforts to contain Covid-19, including by imposing tougher penalties on those who violate health protocols.
The call came as the number of new cases continued to increase, following the easing of social restrictions and the beginning of the new school year.
This month, Indonesia has recorded at least 1,200 new cases each day, with the highest, 2,657, recorded on July 8. In total, the country has registered 76,981 cases with 3,656 deaths.
Widodo said priority should be given to eight provinces which the most cases — East Java, Jakarta, West Java, South Sulawesi, Central Java, North Sumatra, and Papua.
"We prioritize mass testing, tracing, and treatment with priority in those regions," Widodo said during a meeting with ministers and the chairman of the country’s Covid-19 task force on July 13.
He also asked for additional laboratories to meet the target of 30,000 tests daily, up from the current 20,000.
Widodo also urged the tightening of border controls as “imported cases have increased.”
He also said that the government is currently preparing to introduce punishments against health protocol violators, but did not give any details. A recent survey conducted by Airlangga University found that around 70 percent of Indonesians — particularly in East Java which is a Covid-19 hot spot — do not wear face masks when outdoors.
Father Paulus Christian Siswantoko, secretary of the bishops’ Commission for the Laity and a member of the Catholic Network Against Covid-19, agreed with Widodo’s call.
He said the network has routinely sought to raise public awareness about the virus and prevention measures.
The priest said many people misunderstood the term “new normal” as an improved situation so have neglected to follow health protocols.
"People don't yet have the commitment to follow new habits, which must be obeyed at this time," he told UCA News.
He said many are tired of having had to deal with this pandemic for months.
"But we all have an obligation to constantly be reminded of the importance of health protocols to keep us safe,” he said. “Negligence is an opportunity for this disease to spread.”
Doctor Felix Gunawan, director of the Association of Voluntary Health Services of Indonesia, also agreed with the president.
He said a commitment to follow health protocols is very important.
“According to experts, about 80 percent of Covid-19 cases are transmitted by people who show no symptoms at all,” he said.
"Fighting the pandemic requires the cooperation of leaders from all organizations, to educate everyone intensively and continuously," he said.
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