COVID-19: ‘Mudik’ risks mass contagion across Java

first_imgThe Jakarta administration had made a request to stop intercity bus services to and from Jakarta on Monday, but it was rejected by acting transportation minister Luhut Pandjaitan after Jokowi turned down the capital’s request for a lockdown.On Thursday, Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said he would make that request even though he had earlier claimed that Jakarta had already imposed PSBB.“Today, we will send a letter to the health minister asking for the minister to immediately approve the PSBB for Jakarta. What we need from the central government is to grant us the status, so that we can issue regulations [with regard to COVID-19 handling],” Anies said in a virtual meeting with Vice President Ma’ruf Amin.He suggested that the PSBB for Jakarta apply also to surrounding cities, saying that the outbreak affected Greater Jakarta areas.Anies had issued a circular asking interregional buses to temporarily halt operations starting Monday in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19 to other regions.“We were worried about people’s mobility from Jakarta to areas outside the capital. Hence, we issued the circular because of the high risk of spreading the disease [to other regions]. This needs to be a concern for the central government.”Padjajaran University epidemiologist Panji Hadiseomarto said the government’s green light for the exodus was “confusing”, as it contradicted the large-scale social restrictions policy announced just a few days earlier. He said the decision would certainly widen the spread of the virus across the country.”It’ll be hard to get people to isolate themselves […]. If local epidemics occur in the regions, I’m sure most of the regions will be overwhelmed. If we’ll see more victims of COVID-19 following the exodus, I will blame it on the government,” he said.— Ardila Syakriah contributed to this story.Topics : For West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil, the consequences of letting people go to their hometowns during a pandemic are real. The governor posted on his Facebook wall on Thursday a news story about a 72-year-old stroke patient from Ciamis who tested positive for COVID-19 after having contact with his child from virus-stricken Jakarta.“This story is one of many cases of parents in West Java who are COVID-19 positive after being visited by their children or relatives, who are unaware that they are carrying the virus to their hometowns,” he said. “Restrain yourselves and love your parents. Don’t go home now,” he pleaded.The post is just another sign of growing apprehension among regional leaders over a possible explosion of coronavirus cases in their respective areas as millions of people from Greater Jakarta — largely deprived of their livelihood due to large-scale physical distancing policies — are set to travel to their hometowns for Idul Fitri early.The central government still lacks a clear strategy on preventing that. Just hours before Ridwan made his plea, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo announced that he would not officially ban people from traveling for the Idul Fitri holidays, ignoring warnings from public health experts that the consequences of failing to prevent people from leaving Jakarta, the epicenter of the outbreak in the country, could be dire.Read also: Some 70,000 Indonesians could be infected with COVID-19 before Ramadan, scientists sayAnnually, some 20 million people from Greater Jakarta travel to their hometowns to celebrate Idul Fitri in a tradition called mudik (exodus). The tradition, public health experts say, could lead to massive COVID-19 contagion on Java, an island of 141 million people, where many regions have far worse healthcare systems than Jakarta.“[The President] underlines that there is no official ban on people going on the mudik during the 2020 Idul Fitri holiday period. The travelers, however, must self-isolate for 14 days, will be given ‘people under observation’ [ODP] status, as per the World Health Organization health protocol, and will be monitored by the respective local administration,” presidential spokesman Fadjroel Rachman said in a statement on Thursday, shortly after a speech by the President on the matter.State Secretary Pratikno, however, later clarified Fadjroel’s statement, saying that the President actually called on people to stay in the capital, though he did not categorically state that the President would ban the mudik.A revised statement from Fadjroel was not redacted to retract the original one. Number of travelers during Idul Fitri exodus in Indonesia (JP/Hengky Wijaya)Speaking in a teleconferenced Cabinet meeting on Thursday, Jokowi said the government had advised people not to go back to their hometowns for Idul Fitri, so as to contain the spread of the virus, which has killed at least 170 people nationwide. But he stopped short of banning people from doing so.His refusal to ban the mudik has surprised many, but it falls in line with the main strategy he adopted to fight the virus, which is one of large-scale social restrictions. The President has ruled out any form of lockdown, be it a closure of regional borders or a strict restriction of people’s movement, saying that such a drastic policy was not suited to the characteristics of Indonesians and would severely hurt businesses.But despite his refusal to isolate cities, the President still wanted regional leaders and his ministers to devise ways to discourage people from the exodus this year.The Jakarta administration, he said, had proposed that 3.6 million people in the capital be included in social safety nets to keep them from leaving. The President himself said he was open to adjusting the dates of the Idul Fitri public holiday for people who would not be able to return to their hometowns for the annual exodus.As some people would still be able to leave Jakarta, Jokowi also instructed authorities at the subdistrict and village level in the regions to tighten surveillance, saying that local authorities could also use village funds to act as a local social safety net. “I would like to encourage participation at the community level, be it through neighborhood units [RT] or community units [RW], so that travelers [returning to their hometowns] from Greater Jakarta can be given ODP status,” said Jokowi at Bogor Palace, West Java.Meanwhile, Jokowi’s large-scale social restriction policy has created public confusion. On Wednesday, the Transportation Ministry issued a circular outlining restrictions on transportation to and from Greater Jakarta, sparking speculation that the government was ready to ban people from leaving the capital.It was later clarified that the circular was just a recommendation and that Jakarta and its satellite cities should send a letter asking the Health Minister to allow them to impose wide-scale social restrictions, known as PSBB, to restrict transportation services.Read also: Governor Anies calls for greater authority to handle COVID-19 epicenterlast_img read more

Canada faces ‘critical week’ in coronavirus crisis, death toll jumps

first_imgCanada faces “a critical week” in fighting the coronavirus, a senior official said on Thursday, as the death toll jumped and the most populous province said residents should brace for a stark scenario.Deaths surged to 161 from 105 on Wednesday while positive cases rose to 11,131 from 9,017, according to provincial announcements compiled by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.”This is a critical week in our fight against the coronavirus,” said Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. “I have to be up front with people, and I’m going to be, and people will see some really stark figures tomorrow,” he said.Toronto Mayor John Tory – unhappy that people are defying a shutdown order by gathering in public places – announced officials would mount “a blitz on our parks” to force people back home.”The time for puzzlement at this misbehavior is over,” he told reporters.In Quebec, Premier Francois Legault urged police “to be less tolerant” when dealing with those ignoring orders to stay at home. People can be fined up to C$6,000, he said.Legault, worried about shortages of medical supplies, said Quebec had enough ventilators for another week.Some medical personnel have raised concerns about a lack of personal protection equipment. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said authorities had received over a million masks on Wednesday.New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs told CBC his province would run out of testing kits in about a week if they ramped up efforts to see who had contracted the virus.Trudeau sidestepped requests to outline the projections Ottawa was using.”I think people can imagine a range of scenarios that shows everything from everyone gets suddenly better within the next few weeks to this situation just keeps getting worse,” he said. Canada’s public health agency is particularly worried by the spread of the coronavirus in seniors’ residences, which are turning into hotspots in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia – the three biggest provinces by population.It has also expressed concerns about remote, northern indigenous communities, where healthcare is scant. Canada’s military is in talks to offer help if necessary, an official at the ministry of indigenous services told reporters.The health agency predicted a surge in Ontario, which accounts for more than a third of Canada’s 38 million citizens.Ontario premier Doug Ford said he would release sobering internal projections on Friday.center_img Topics :last_img read more

Concerns arise as government undermines rule of law in pandemic response

first_imgAfter introducing a contentious omnibus bill that seeks to cut through red tape, the administration of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has found itself under scrutiny again as it carries out several new strategies to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic that might overstep prevailing regulations.Critics have said that two of the latest government moves – a plan to cancel this year’s Idul Fitri holiday bonus (THR) and yearly bonus for civil servants, as well as a policy criminalizing those who are deemed to have defamed the government in relation to COVID-19 response – will undermine the rule of law.“The government must respect the prevailing laws when making new policies during the pandemic, given that the Constitution says that Indonesia is ‘a state governed by laws’,” Trubus Rahadiansyah, a public policy and legal expert at Trisakti University, told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday. “But the government’s moves in recent days have raised eyebrows since they might overstep some of the current laws, including a plan to cancel civil servants’ holiday and annual bonuses this year.”On Tuesday, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati mulled the possibility of cutting bonuses for state officials, as well as echelon I and II officials, as she is prioritizing the state budget for combating the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.The remaining lower- and middle- level civil servants, including also police and military personnel, will still receive the bonuses.Trubus said the bonus cut would be illegitimate, given that Government Regulation (PP) No. 35/2019 on civil servant allowances stipulates that those bonuses cannot be cut even when the state budget is under pressure. He also said it would probably contradict Article 21 of the 2014 State Civil Apparatus (ASN) Law that protects civil servants’ right to receive allowances and bonuses from the government, with the law itself having failed to mention conditions under which bonus cuts are legitimate.It remains unclear whether such a policy will take shape, but Sri Mulyani said on Wednesday that it would be discussed further in a Cabinet meeting in the coming weeks.Read also: Industry Ministry allocates $7 million, proposes stimulus package to help affected industriesThe Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Ministry’s spokesperson Andi Rahadian did not respond to the Post’s request for comment as of Wednesday evening.If the government insists on canceling this year’s bonuses, Trubus urged the government to prepare another legal guideline to specifically regulate bonus cancellation under extraordinary circumstances, including in times of emergency.“If the government keeps on with the plan without any strong legal basis, slashing bonuses for civil servants would be illegitimate,” Trubus said.“Another way is to revise the 2019 PP to accommodate the plan. But the amendment should also be discussed with the House of Representatives, since it will stipulate new conditions that are not regulated in the ASN law.”Jokowi’s administration also finds itself in the hot seat after the National Police moved to criminalize those who publicly insult the President and government officials in relation to their handling of the coronavirus outbreak.Read also: Criticism ‘not an insult’: Police’s plan to nab slanderers of govt over COVID-19 questionedNational Police chief Gen. Idham Azis, in a classified police telegram dated April 4, ordered his personnel to start cyber patrols to monitor the “development of the situation and opinion in cyberspace” during the pandemic.The telegram says offenders can be charged with defamation under Article 207 of the Criminal Code, which carries a maximum sentence of 1.5 years in prison.Meanwhile those who spread false information relating to government policies in handling the contagious disease will be subject to Articles 14 and/or 15 of the Criminal Code, which carry a maximum sentence of 10 years behind bars.Erasmus Napitupulu of the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) said the Indonesian legal system no longer categorized insults against the President as a crime after the Constitutional Court scrapped such provisions in a ruling in 2006.He said that charging offenders under Article 207 was inappropriate since it failed to cite insulting the President as an offense.“This policy aims at restricting freedom of expression. The police are not only violating the Constitutional Court ruling, but also contravening the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech,” Erasmus said.Read also: Activists warn government not to repeat mistakes of past economic bailoutsIdham acknowledged that his decision had fueled public anger, but he brushed off those criticisms by saying that upholding law enforcement measures would not always satisfy all people.“There are always pros and cons regarding our law enforcement measures. But those who have been named suspects due to the crime [insulting the President and state officials] can file pretrial suits to defend themselves,” Idham said in a recent statement.Topics :last_img read more

Hong Kong unemployment rate hits highest in more than 9 years

first_imgTopics : Total employment fell by around 48,800 to 3.72 million.The year-on-year declines in total employment and the labor force widened further to 3.6% and 2.2% respectively, both the largest on record.The unemployment rate in the consumption- and tourism-related sectors combined soared to 6.8%, the highest since the global financial crisis a decade ago.”The labor market will continue to face significant pressure from the economic fallout arising from the pandemic in the near term,” Secretary for Labor and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said in a statement. Hong Kong’s unemployment rate rose to the highest in more than nine years in the first quarter as the coronavirus dealt a sharp shock to an economy already in recession.The seasonally adjusted jobless rate in January-March rose to 4.2% from 3.7% in previous three-month period, government data showed on Monday.The underemployment rate hit nearly a decade high of 2.1%, from 1.5% in the previous three-month rolling period.center_img The government earlier this month announced relief measures worth HK$137.5 billion ($17.7 billion) to help businesses and people losing money due to the coronavirus outbreak to stay on their feet, and urged employers not to lay off workers.Some 10,400 retail employees are expected to have lose their jobs in February-May, about 4% of the 260,000 workforce in the retail sector, Hong Kong Retail Management Association said.Hong Kong’s economy contracted for the first time in a decade in 2019 due to often-violent anti-government protests and the US-China trade war.While the government of the Asian financial center has stopped short of full lockdowns seen in some other cities, the recession is expected to deepen this year.The Chinese-ruled city recorded zero new coronavirus cases on Monday for the first time since early March, health authorities said, though they urged residents to maintain strict hygiene and social distancing practices and avoid unnecessary travel. last_img read more

Trump says will resume travelling next week

first_imgTopics : He added that he will visit Ohio, one of the key swing states in the November presidential election, “very soon.”The Arizona trip is focused on the economic recovery effort and is not a campaign rally, “because it’s too soon” for crowded events in stadiums, Trump explained.But the Republican — facing a tight re-election battle against Democratic challenger Joe Biden and burdened by dire approval ratings — made clear he wants to get back to his once frequent rallies as soon as possible.”Hopefully in the not too distant future we’ll have some massive rallies and people will be sitting next to each other,” he said. “I can’t imagine a rally where you have every fourth seat full…. That wouldn’t look too good,” he added.”I hope that we’re going to be able to do some good old-fashioned 25,000 person rallies where everyone’s going wild because they love our country.”At a meeting with industry leaders, Trump sounded an upbeat message, insisting that the US economy will quickly bounce back from the staggering costs of the shutdown required to stop the spreading novel coronavirus.Despite some experts’ warnings that widespread social distancing will have to remain in effect until a vaccine is made, Trump predicted that the danger would fade by itself and said that the United States was equipped to extinguish any “embers.””We’re looking for vaccines, we’re looking for therapeutics also,” he said. “I’m not relying on that [vaccines], I hope that’s going to happen.”  “I want to get back [to a full economy] with or without [a vaccine], but obviously we have to wait till it’s gone. It will be gone,” he said.Asked how the virus would be eradicated without a vaccine, which is not expected to be available soon, Trump responded:”It’s going to go. It’s going to leave, it’s going to be gone, it’s going to be eradicated.”center_img US President Donald Trump said Wednesday he’ll resume flying around the country from next week and looks forward to holding “wild” campaign rallies as soon as he can.Trump told reporters in the White House that he is “going to Arizona next week and we look forward to that.”This will be his first cross-country trip since the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the United States.last_img read more

70-year-old Jambi man reported to police for alleged harassment

first_imgA 70-year-old man identified as IS from Muarojambi, Jambi, is being investigated for allegedly harassing eight teenagers.One of the alleged victims’ parents, Edi Hartono, said he first became suspicious of IS when he saw the man loitering around teens who were socializing outside their homes. “We’re angered by [IS] for harassing our children. They are innocent and we’re really concerned that these incidents would affect them psychologically. We’ve reported him to the police in hopes that he won’t harass anyone else,” Edi said as quoted by Muarojambi Police chief Sr. Adj. Comr. Ardiyanto confirmed that a team would investigate IS and the accusations leveled against him.IS has not been arrested.“While we conduct a preliminary investigation, we’ve secured [IS’s] house in an effort to avoid public anger […] We have yet to arrest him because we need to collect evidence,” said Ardiyanto, adding that if the preliminary investigation found evidence that supported the accusations, the police would charge him under the country’s sexual harassment and child protection laws. (dpk)Topics : Edi, a neighborhood unit (RW) head in Penyengat Olak village, also noticed that his children were in possession of Rp 50,000 (US$3.55), which they had not gotten from him.When Edi asked his children who had given them the money, his children reportedly pointed to IS.Edi and several other parents in the neighborhood then reported IS to the Muarojambi Police.Read also: High-achieving UII student to be stripped of honors after 30 women report him for alleged sexual abuselast_img read more

Israel launches spy satellite to keep a better eye on enemies

first_img“We will continue to strengthen and maintain Israel’s capabilities on every front, in every place,” said Defense Minister Benny Gantz.The Defense Ministry called Ofek 16 “an electro-optical reconnaissance satellite with advanced capabilities.”The first images will be received in about a week.State-owned Israel Aerospace Industries was the main contractor for the project and the satellite’s payload was developed by defense firm Elbit Systems. Israel on Monday launched a new spy satellite that it said would provide high-quality surveillance for its military intelligence.Israel has been building up its surveillance capabilities to monitor enemies such as Iran, whose nuclear program it sees as a major threat.The satellite, called Ofek 16, was shot into space early Monday morning from a site in central Israel by a locally-developed Shavit rocket, which was used to launch previous Ofek satellites. Topics :last_img read more

Australia approves remdesivir as virus treatment

first_imgSeveral other Asian nations have also approved the drug for treatment against COVID-19.Australia’s call to approve the drug was made on “preliminary clinical data” and aided by reports from the EU’s European Medicines Agency and Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority. The drug was given provisional approval for adults and adolescent patients and would be limited to those severely unwell from the virus, needing help to breathe and in hospital care, the authority noted.”While this is a major milestone in Australia’s struggle against the pandemic, it is important to emphasize that the product has not been shown to prevent coronavirus infection or relieve milder cases of infection.”The decision comes after the EU’s executive arm cleared the drug — which was originally intended as a treatment for Ebola — for use while Washington bought up almost all supplies.Recently the US said it had purchased 92 percent of all remdesivir from its producer, Gilead Sciences, until the end of September — about 500,000 treatments out of nearly 550,000. Australia approved the anti-viral drug remdesivir for treatment of COVID-19 Friday following a similar decision from the European Commission.It is the first drug approved by Australian authorities to treat the virus and promised to reduce hospitalization time for coronavirus patients, Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration(TGA) said in a statement.”By reducing recovery times, patients will be able to leave hospital earlier, freeing beds for those in need,” the TGA said. center_img Topics :last_img read more

Spurs sign Southampton midfielder Hojbjerg

first_imgTopics : The 25-year-old was stripped of the Saints captaincy and dropped for most of Southampton’s post-coronavirus lockdown matches after he informed them he would not be signing a new contract.Everton were also in the hunt to sign Hojbjerg, but his desire to work with Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho is believed to have helped seal his signature.”What was very important for me was I wanted to play at a club where I could see myself for many years and Tottenham was the one,” Hojbjerg said.”I am very proud, very happy and excited. I think there is a fantastic future ahead for the club and I wanted so much to be a part of that. Tottenham signed Denmark midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg from Southampton in a reported £15 million ($19 million) deal on Tuesday.Hojbjerg became Tottenham’s first signing since the end of the Premier League season after agreeing a five-year contract with the north London club.”We are delighted to announce the signing of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg from Southampton,” the club said on their Twitter account.center_img “If you want to achieve the big things, you need 11 leaders on the pitch and to do that everyone needs to take responsibility in their position, bringing everything they have into the team. “I always like to say whatever you put in, you get out. Spurs has fantastic players, a fantastic manager and a fantastic set-up.”Hojbjerg, who arrived in England in 2016 from Bayern Munich, had been so intent on joining Tottenham that he liked several social media posts linking him with the club.In a separate move, Tottenham right-back Kyle Walker-Peters joined Southampton for £12 million after spending the second half of the season on loan at St Mary’s.Walker-Peters, a Tottenham academy graduate, has agreed a five-year contract with Southampton.”The last few months on loan have been great for me and a lot of fun too,” the 23-year-old said of his initial Southampton spell.”I’ve really enjoyed my football, the atmosphere here and also the style of play.”The club definitely fits the way I like to play, and I hope that people were able to see that during the last month or so of the season.”last_img read more

Jokowi pledges central bank to remain independent

first_imgJokowi told a briefing with foreign correspondents that the central bank would remain independent, when asked about the recommendations, adding he had no plans to issue an emergency decree to change BI’s role.The panel also recommended to parliament BI be allowed to buy government bonds in the primary market and purchase zero-interest bonds under certain economic conditions.BI is currently allowed to conduct such operations only in response to the coronavirus pandemic.The central bank has pledged to purchase US$28 billion of government bonds, while relinquishing interest payments this year, but officials have stressed the policy would be one-off amid concerns about inflation.When asked if the so-called “burden-sharing” scheme would continue, Jokowi said: “If our economic growth reaches 4.5 percent-5.5 percent (next year), maybe not in 2022”.The president said he would be content even if Indonesia continued to post negative growth by the third quarter as long as it recovered from the 5.32 percent contraction in the second quarter.He did not give a growth forecast for 2020, but Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati has forecast GDP will be within a range of -1.1 percent to 0.2 percent.Topics : Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo pledged on Tuesday that the country’s central bank would remain independent, a day after a panel of experts advising parliament recommended that government ministers be given voting rights at policy meetings.In proposals that could amount to the biggest shake-up of the monetary authority in two decades, the panel also suggested economic growth and employment be added to Bank Indonesia’s (BI) mandate among other amendments to Indonesia’s central bank law.Analysts have warned the proposals could raise questions over BI’s independence and Indonesia’s track record of prudent macroeconomic policymaking, although some also said reform was needed to ensure BI could meet new challenges and support Southeast Asia’s biggest economy during the pandemic.last_img read more