by Bambang Purwanto
JAKARTA, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- Indonesian President Joko Widodo has assigned Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic in the country in addition to the recent establishment of a national committee on pandemic mitigation and economic recovery.
The Indonesian Health Ministry has said the daily increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country has hovered around 3,000 in the past two weeks.
The ministry on Sunday reported 3,989 more cases, bringing the total to 244,676, with the death toll adding by 105 to 9,553.
On Saturday, the ministry recorded the highest daily hike of 4,168.
The senior minister was given a special assignment to control the COVID-19 outbreak especially in the capital city of Jakarta, and provinces of West Java, East Java, Central Java, South Kalimantan, South Sulawesi, Bali, North Sumatra and Papua, which represent 75 percent of the COVID-19 cases in the country.
The president also asked relevant ministries including the Health Ministry to work together and monitor the progress of the COVID-19 mitigation in these regions.
The COVID-19 Mitigation Task Force's spokesman Wiku Adisasmito on Thursday announced a series of measures to curb the spread of the pandemic.
Among them was to synchronize relevant data between the central government and the regional administrations, which would be used as references to make decisions on the COVID-19 mitigation and economic recovery.
The government also implemented administrative rules on the enforcement of health protocols, including imposition of sanctions on those who violate the rules.
The president also underscored the improvement of the treatment management for COVID-19 patients to lower the mortality rate and increase the recovery rate, as well as immediate actions on clusters especially in coronavirus-prone districts or cities.
The government would also create a synergy in tackling the deadly virus among cities which are adjacent to each other including the capital city of Jakarta to its surrounding areas as West Java province's cities of Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi, where the mobility of commuters is high.
Among the measures to mitigate the pandemic was to encourage people to change their behaviors in exercising the health protocols, Pandjaitan told a virtual press conference on Friday.
There was an increasing trend in the number of new COVID-19 cases in September compared to August although the recovery rate was also rising, he said, admitting that the increase occurred when economic activities resumed.
He said that in the next two to three months, there might be a time of crisis before an effective COVID-19 vaccine is available. The vaccine is now under the third phase of clinical test.
The minister requested the Health Ministry to make sure the availability of medicines for COVID-19 patients in all the provinces across the country.
He also called on the governors in the worst-affacted provinces to prepare two or three star hotels to be turned into quarantine centers for COVID-19 patients without symptoms and those with light symptoms.
Especially for the Indonesian Armed Forces and the State Police, Pandjaitan called for tightened operations to ensure health protocols are well implemented.
The State Police's spokesman Brigadier General Awi Setiyono said the disciplinary enforcement is conducted in stages ranging from persuasive measures to legal sanctions.
According to Setiyono, the measures include warning people of abiding by the health protocols, and imposing sanctions of fines, social works and revocation of business permits.