It’s Like a Domino Effect
Coronavirus Mitigation Spokesman, Achmad Yurianto:
PRESIDENT Joko Widodo has evaluated various policies for coronavirus mitigation. After the World Health Organization (WHO) named Covid-19 a pandemic on Wednesday, March 11, the Indonesian government named corona a national disaster. Chief of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Doni Monardi has been appointed to lead the quick response team to mitigate the impacts of the virus’ spread.
Jokowi has also opened access to testing coronavirus specimens outside the Health Ministry’s Research and Development Agency to accelerate early detection for the virus that, as of Sunday, March 15, had infected 117 people, five of whom have died. “We need to be quick because, after an investigation, the patients are going everywhere,” Coronavirus Affairs Spokesman Achmad Yurianto told Tempo via telephone on Friday, March 13. Excerpts of the interview:
How much does the disease’s pandemic status impact protocols for coronavirus mitigation?
The pandemic status is in the context of country borders, not between the central government and regional governments. For example, several countries have decided to close off or limit the spread of the virus by revoking visa-free entry. The central-regional governments’ strategy has not changed from the start. It’s just that we are asking to be strengthened further because the spread of the disease has become more difficult to detect using regular methods.
What about the health ministry’s role after coronavirus mitigation was taken over by the BNPB?
Corona is already announced as a disaster. In this context, BNPB’s responsibility has to do with the large-scale management. But the incident commander is still the health minister because this has to do with health. It is, however, impossible for us to handle this on our own because now we know that the impacts are not only on health.
What are the effects of the coronavirus’ national disaster status?
The implications are wide, including on funding. The law on disaster mitigation is clear, that funding must use the state’s reserve funds, and that it’s non-budgetary. The fund is clearly meant for health care, logistics and mitigation operations.
What about funding for coronavirus mitigation in the regions?
Several regions allocate budget for unexpected spending. We of course know that there is disparity in the regions’ fiscal abilities. This is why the gap is then filled by the central (government’s) budget.
Are the preliminary tests for detecting the coronavirus paid for by the government?
Well, the cost of these tests is covered by the state.
Why did the government in the end choose to not center sample testing at the Health Ministry’s Research and Development Agency?
Tracing efforts discovered that the patients have spread everywhere, (it’s) chaotic. We have to race to discover, find and isolate contact sources because this is significant in preventing the virus’ spread. It’s like a domino effect, one infected turns into several. If not properly pursued, we will miss them. The number of cases are quickly increasing. There is only one way to stop it, find those who are positive and isolate them so that they can no longer infect others.
How prepared are other institutions to test coronavirus specimens?
Testing for the virus is not like testing for blood type or for pregnancy. Basic variables must be fulfilled, and these are global standards, meaning rooms with biosafety level 2 (BSL-2) safety standards. Not everyone has those.
Where are these BSL-2 laboratories located?
Airlangga University and the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology have BSL-2 labs. The Health Ministry’s Research and Development Agency has a BSL-3 lab because it can manipulate viruses. Smaller unit can be found in the Jakarta, Banjar Baru, Surabaya and Yogyakarta environmental, health and technology centers (BTKL) and a smaller facility in Batam. Now we are preparing more in Medan, Palembang, Ambon, Manado, and Makassar.