President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has asked Indonesians, and businesses entities in particular, to prepare to coexist with COVID-19, which would necessitate a new normal of social distancing and observance of health protocols.
For the country, which has been battling the pandemic since early March this year, finding ways to coexist with COVID-19 would not imply giving up the fight against the deadly virus, he asserted.
Instead, it would involve carrying out normal activities peacefully, safely, productively, and comfortably by following the new health protocols to safeguard against coronavirus spread, as, currently, no vaccines have been developed against the infection.
The safety of the public must remain priority, the President remarked.
In preparation for the transition toward a new normal amid the lingering pandemic, the government is drafting protocols for various activities to ensure that people stay safe and healthy, Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, Airlangga Hartarto, said.
"This will be discussed in detail and will be decided by the President. We are now studying the concept technically and comprehensively," Airlangga said, adding that the new normal will demand strong discipline on part of the public.
In Jakarta, the country’s capital and COVID-19 epicenter, Governor Anies Bawesdan has projected that normalcy will be restored and local residents will resume activities after the third round of large-scale social distancing (PSBB) ends.
"If we all remain disciplined, Jakarta can return to a new normal. Many people usually call it a new normal to refer to a new situation instead of a pre-pandemic situation," he remarked at the Jakarta City Hall on May 20, 2020.
However, Jakarta residents are expected to not reduce their adherence to a disciplined lifestyle under new normal conditions, he said.
“This (COVID-19 fight) is not yet over. I want to underscore that there is no relaxation. Do not think it is relaxed. Do not feel that it is over," he cautioned.
Achmad Yurianto, the government’s spokesperson for COVID-19 response, has also reiterated that amid the ongoing pandemic, the public will have to adapt to a new normal, while being productive.
"We need to still be productive, while prioritizing principles to protect ourselves from COVID-19. This then would become a fundamental behavior change for all of us, and this is what we are calling the new normal," he explained.
People, he said, need to get used to practicing health protocols, such as keeping a safe distance from others, using masks, and selectively choosing appropriate moments to leave home.
As for businesses, State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) Minister Erick Thohir has ordered all state-owned companies to set up COVID-19 task forces and prepare guidelines for the implementation of the new normal.
The guidelines would contain a timeline for implementing the new normal, the SOE Minister stated in letter number S- 336 /MBU/05/2020 that ANTARA received recently.
The SOE COVID-19 task forces would prepare the timeline by referring to policies laid down by the SOE Ministry, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), and the Health Ministry, while taking into account the potency of respective clusters and regions.
The task forces will also be required to draft COVID-19 protocols on necessary matters, including human capital and culture, process and technology, as well as business continuity.
In the meantime, the tourism industry, the first sector to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, is facing a set back of 58-78 percent in 2020.
In accordance with the President’s directive, however, Indonesia's Tourism and Creative Economy Minister, Wishnutama Kusubandio, has urged the tourism industry to implement health protocols as part of the new normal.
"Health and security protocols will attract tourists. We continue to work hard to formulate strategic moves to prepare a health protocol in an effort to accelerate the recovery of the tourism sector," he stated.
The minister was upbeat about Indonesia's tourism industry recovering sooner than expected, or taking less than five years to return to normalcy.
The closure of tourist destinations owing to the pandemic should be viewed as an opportunity to evaluate and rearrange locations so operators can improvise services and bring about sustainable tourism development, he said.
"We have to work towards ensuring faster recovery of the tourism sector. We fully understand that tourism is the backbone of the economy," he noted.
As for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) has projected shifts and new-fangled business models as part of the new normal to help people conduct businesses even as the coronavirus continues to persist.
MSME is one of the sectors that bore the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to sustain in such a challenging scenario, the MSME business models need to capitalize on suitable technologies, either existing ones or those that can be developed further, Laksana Tri Handoko, the institute's chairman, stated.
The technology can take shape in the form of packaging of local food products and diversification of existing products, he pointed out.
During the enactment of PSBB, customers were unable to eat at restaurants or cafes. Under such conditions, packaging food and diversifying products can create market opportunities and potentially boost revenues for MSME businesses, he remarked.
For instance, the meat-based dish empal gentong, popular in Cirebon, West Java, can be packaged in cans and sold in markets nationwide, he said.
In terms of product diversification, diners that initially only sold riced corn can start producing corn- or cassava-based noodles. The products can then be packaged and sent to different areas and sold within networks, he added.
The pandemic has forced people across the world to brace for a fundamental shift, and hopefully, the new normal will not just benefit humans, but also have a positive impact on the planet, its flora and fauna.
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