At the end of December 2019, the media reported on the pandemic of a new virus which rapidly caused extraordinary morbidity and deaths in Wuhan, the capital China's Hubei Province. On 30 January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, a health emergency which needs to be the concern of every country in the world.
Indonesian citizens were repatriated to Indonesia from Wuhan, China and arrived at Natuna Island on 2 February 2020 for a two-week observation period. Along with the spread of the disease, rumours and hoaxes of various responses and assumptions about this new disease spread, primarily through social media. The Ministry of Health monitored the rumours and hoaxes, providing information to counter them, including through daily press conferences. The Indonesian Red Cross also monitored the news circulating in Natuna and carried out communication and education activities to the people living around the temporary residences of the Indonesian citizens returning from Wuhan.
The virus, which was later identified as SARS-CoV-2, spread throughout the world in less than two months. On 11 February 2020, the disease caused by the new virus was officially named COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019). One month later, on 11 March 2020, WHO declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic.
In Indonesia, on 2 March 2020, the President of the Republic of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, announced the first identified COVID-19 case in Indonesia. The population was requested by the government to start taking preventive measures, namely to wash their hands with soap and running water, and for those with flu-like symptoms to wear masks. Many members of the community started buying various necessities and masks in large quantities. In response, people were asked to not panic, to remain calm and alert. Following the WHO advice, the Indonesian government announced that masks should only be worn by people who show symptoms of coughing and cold, considering the limited supply of masks which is prioritized for health facilities and first responders or those whose jobs put them at high risk of exposure to the new virus.
On 13 March 2020, President Joko Widodo formed the COVID-19 Accelerated Management Working Group in Indonesia, chaired by the Head of the National Agency for Disaster Management, Doni Monardo, and official spokesperson Dr. Ahmad Yurianto. Furthermore, a Task Force was also formed in each of the 34 provinces in Indonesia. The next day, the President declared COVID-19 as a non-natural disaster emergency in Indonesia. To avoid confusion, the government launched a one-stop online site covid19.go.id on 18 March 2020. On 31 March 2020, the government regulation for Large-Scale Social Distancing (Pembatasan Sosial Berskala Besar/PSBB) was enforced at the national level, throughout Indonesia. Various public facilities were closed, and communities were asked to work, study, and worship at home. Considering the communities’ condition in general, Indonesia did not impose a complete closure of public facilities, but the population was not allowed to leave the house at all, with certain exceptions, as enforced in Hubei, Italy, and Spain. Additionally, everyone was requested to wear a mask when outside of the home, as applied in Japan and South Korea.
Considering the novelty of COVID-19, many things about this virus were still unknown - from the mode of transmission, prevention of transmission, testing, screening, treatment, to protection of the general public. The government requested communities to conduct three main preventive measures: first, to wash their hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds, and to do this as often as possible; second, to wear a mask and replace it with a new one after four hours. Special masks must be worn by those at high risk of contracting COVID-19, while those who are healthy and are not at high risk may wear cloth masks which fulfil the requirements stipulated and distributed by the government; and third, to maintain a 1-2 metre distance between individuals. Initially, the effort of maintaining distance was referred to by WHO as social distancing or to maintain social distance, but to be more precise, the term physical distancing, or to maintain physical distance, was used.
The community did not always implement these three measures. When restrictions were placed on homeward-bound mobility during the fasting month/Ramadhan and Eid Al-Fitr holidays, there were still some members of the community who were found trying to violate the restrictions. Each province and regency are imposing their own local regulations, so the regulations are not uniform.
Before the new habits were formed, the community had to adapt with the reopening of certain sectors/organizations for business, such as Starting to allow employees of state-owned companies under 45 years old to return to work on 25 May. This was followed by the opening of larger public facilities on 1 June, considering that economic activities must continue. This started the new habit adaptation period, widely known as the new normal.
In light of these changes, inaccurate or incorrect information started spreading among the population, such that WHO labelled this situation as an information pandemic (infodemic). Responding to the rumours and hoaxes, and inaccurate information, various new and accurate information was conveyed by the Risk Communication and Community Empowerment/Engagement Working Group, which is under the command of the national Task Force and consists of representatives of ministries and governmental agencies, various UN organizations, as well as non-profit organizations such as the Indonesian Red Cross and other community organizations.
These organizations disseminated key messages on the virus transmission and prevention, how to conduct self-quarantine and self-isolation, and other important information through various communication channels such as the television, radio, internet, social media, newspapers, magazines, and SMS. The government and other agencies also opened a channel for receiving community feedbacks, providing a medium for communities to submit suggestions, questions, complaints, and concerns regarding COVID-19. These channels include hotlines, SMS, WhatsApp, ChatBots, interactive radio talk show, and social media accounts.
The Community Voices endeavours to document the above various efforts. This edition contains around 20 reports or survey results of the communities’ perception on COVID-19 by various agencies, including government bodies and community organizations. For this first edition, The Community Voices focuses on the efforts or activities at the national level. An addendum on the situation in DKI Jakarta is included, considering that DKI Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia, and in the first few months had the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.