The country’s total COVID-19 tally touched 1,398,578 cases as of March 11 this year, with the death toll recorded at 37,932 and total recoveries at 1,216,433 since the government announced the first confirmed cases on March 2, 2020.
The nation has been working hard to fight the viral infection that peaked last year and in January, 2021, prompting the government to change its COVID-19 handling strategy.
This year, the government has shifted from large-scale social distancing measures to micro-scale public activity restrictions (PPKM), first imposed on January 11-25 and then extended several times. Recently, the PPKM was extended from March 9 to March 22, 2021.
Under the government’s micro-level approach, PPKMs are being enforced starting from the levels of villages and neighborhoods (RTs and RWs), with the central task force to the smallest units of the COVID-19 task force, as well as civil legal enforcers and military police roped in for the purpose, particularly for contact tracing efforts.
PPKMs were first imposed in around 22 thousand villages in seven provinces — Jakarta, West Java, Banten, Central Java, Yogyakarta, East Java, and Bali.
By the end of February, 2021, the strategy had been expanded to other regions and as many as 22,832 COVID-19 posts were established in 30 provinces.
Most activities at the COVID-19 posts during the enforcement of the PPKMs focused on education and raising awareness about using masks, maintaining a safe distance, and washing hands with soap.
The PPKMs were implemented concurrently with the 3T (testing, tracing, and treatment) formula and the supply of basic needs, with each village setting up a post in charge of handling, preventing, educating, and offering operational support to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
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For COVID-19 testing, the Health Ministry is providing free antigen swab tests to all citizens through health facilities and public health centers (Puskesmas) in the regions.The government, in coordination with the Indonesian military and police, has also distributed masks to all villagers.
The micro-based PPKMs have increased community compliance in using masks, thanks to close supervision being carried out over a narrower area, making monitoring tighter, officials said.
Airlangga Hartarto, chief of the COVID-19 Handling and National Economic Recovery Committee (KPC-PEN), confirmed that PPKMs have been effective in thwarting virus transmission in February, 2021.
"When it (PPKM strategy) took effect, 25 out of the 128 districts and cities in Java and Bali were at a high risk (of COVID-19 transmission). Until its enforcement on February 28 (2021), the number of red zones declined to 10," the minister revealed during a national coordination meeting on disaster mitigation 2021 in Jakarta on March 9, 2021.
In fact, the number of districts and cities with moderate risk of COVID-19 transmission fell to 86 from 97, and the number of districts and cities with a low transmission risk increased to 32 from six earlier.
Jakarta reported a sharp fall in COVID-19 infections, with active cases reaching 7,209 on March 7, 2021 compared to 13,309 on February 21, 2021.
With the enforcement of PPKMs, the number of COVID-19-free villages increased to 7,578 on February 21, 2021 from 6,292 on February 18.
“This proves that micro-scale public activity restrictions have been successful," Hartarto remarked.
Hence, the government has increased the scope of implementation of micro-scale PPKMs to cover not just the provinces of Java and Bali, but also the provinces of East Kalimantan, South Sulawesi, and North Sumatra, he said.
The declining risk of COVID-19 transmission in several districts and cities will facilitate the process of national economic recovery, noted Hartarto, who is also the Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs.
Furthermore, the government is intensifying the national vaccination program as part of efforts to achieve herd immunity.
Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin has confirmed there has been a downward trend in the number of daily cases and COVID-19 patients under treatment at hospitals.
"We double check with the data at the hospital to ensure the decline in confirmed cases has actually occurred or because the number of tests has decreased. We can see that the number of patients in hospitals has fallen consistently in two weeks," Sadikin said recently.
He said he believes that the implementation of PPKMs has had an impact on the community, thereby reducing the rate of transmission.
Wiku Adisasmito, spokesperson for the COVID-19 Handling Task Force, said he is optimistic about the new strategy, saying it has worked well and has been effective in controlling the spread of COVID-19 cases.
The key to the success of PPKMs is having a structured task force at the provincial, district/city, sub-districts, to the village level, with the involvement of civilian officials, personnel from the national army and the police, as well as community leaders, he added.
The third stage of micro-scale PPKMs, which was applied in DKI Jakarta, West Java, East Java, Banten, Bali, and the Special Region of Yogyakarta (DIY), contributed greatly to reducing the number of cases, he noted.
Meanwhile, Dr. Riris Andono Ahmad, an epidemiologist from Gadjah Mada University, has reiterated that a change in strategy will not be necessary to deal with the spread of the new coronavirus variant, B1.1.7, in Indonesia. So far, only West Java has reported the variant in Kerawang district.
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