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Obeying health protocols is key to successful convening of Papua's PON

Obeying health protocols is key to successful convening of Papua's PON

A mascot of the National Sport Week (PON) XX to be held in Papua in October 2021. (ANTARA FOTO/ADITYA PRADANA PUTRA)

The Tokyo Olympic Games will be our reference for Papua's PON National Games. We are optimistic that the enforcement of public activity restrictions would successfully flatten the COVID-19 curve
Jayapura city, which co-hosts this year's PON National Games along with Jayapura, Mimika, and Merauke Districts, is bracing for a surge in COVID-19 infections, but the government has hinted at still going ahead with the convening of the competition.

In anticipation of a potential COVID-19 spike, the Jayapura Public Hospital, Abepura Public Hospital, and Provita Hospital are striving to increase their hospital bed and isolation ward capacity.

According to Silwanus Sumule, the Papua COVID-19 Task Force spokesperson, the Jayapura Public Hospital has run out of beds for COVID-19 patients, as all 23 beds allocated for Covid patients have been occupied.

The Jayapura Public Hospital is hospitalizing patients with moderate and severe COVID-19, said Sumule, who is also the hospital's deputy director.

If the COVID-19 surge hits Jayapura, the capital of Papua province, new coronavirus patients would have to be treated in the same rooms as non-COVID-19 patients, but the treatment areas would be segregated.

However, the hospital currently has only three ventilators, which is considered inadequate, Sumule said.

Besides Jayapura Public Hospital, Provita Hospital is also making efforts to boost its capacity so it can receive more COVID-19 patients in the future.

Since the start of the pandemic in 2020 until July 9, 2021, Papua has recorded 26,641 COVID-19 cases, Sumule said.

At least 22,847 COVID-19 patients had fully recovered from the infection, while 524 others have died. Currently, some 3,270 residents are hospitalized in the province with COVID-19.

The Papua COVID-19 Task Force further revealed that Mimika District, which also co-hosts the PON National Games, was noted to be the largest contributor to Papua's infection rate, with 713 COVID-19 cases reported through July 9.

On July 8, 2021, Papua recorded 405 COVID-19 cases and 10 new deaths. The single-day increase in both COVID-19 cases and deaths was the highest since the pandemic struck the province in 2020, Sumule noted.

Despite the potential COVID-19 surge, the central government has hinted that they would hold Papua's 2021 PON National Games, while using a bubble system to ensure the safety of competing sports teams.

During a virtual press conference in Jakarta on Tuesday, Youth and Sports Minister Zainudin Amali confirmed that the bubble system would also be in use at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

The minister also expressed his optimism that the sporting event hosted by Papua Province would not be delayed.

Amid the global pandemic of COVID-19 that has battered Indonesia since March 2, 2020, the government had delayed the convening of Papua's National Games from October 2020 to October 2021.

Papua's 2021 PON National Games are scheduled to take place from October 2 to October 15, while the National Para Games (Peparnas) will be held from November 2 to November 15.

With the participation of at least 6,400 athletes and 3,500 officials from 34 provinces across Indonesia, Papua's PON National Games feature 37 events, while the National Para Games, featuring 12 events in Jayapura City and Jayapura District, will be joined by 1,935 athletes and 740 officials.

With the bubble system, all competing sports teams would stay isolated from the general public because they would be transported from their housing to sporting venues, and vice versa.

Minister Amali determined that the bubble system was the most reliable approach to ensure the safety of athletes and those involved in the sporting event held during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Meanwhile, the Indonesian Sports Council (KONI) Chairperson, Marciano Norman, backed Amali's statement while stating that health protocols will strictly be applied during the Tokyo 2020 event to be held on July 23-August 8, 2021.

"The Tokyo Olympic Games will be our reference for Papua's PON National Games. We are optimistic that the enforcement of public activity restrictions would successfully flatten the COVID-19 curve," Norman said.

To ensure the safety of athletes and officials participating in the PON National Games and National Para Games, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has asked the concerned agencies to inoculate the athletes.

In addition to athletes and officials, President Jokowi has also instructed that local residents living near all venues of the sporting events and athletes’ villages must also be vaccinated, Amali said.

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Speaking at the online press conference shortly after attending a limited cabinet meeting with the President, Amali said mass vaccination drives for the targeted recipients need to be intensified.

To this end, mass vaccinations will be ramped up in Papua province to achieve the government's goal of inoculating all targeted recipients by August this year, he said.

Apart from the President's instruction, based on reports he has received so far, all participating athletes, coaches, officials, and support staff members from the 34 provinces have been vaccinated.

Asked about whether sports fans will be able to attend the two multi-sport events, he said the government will take a decision on this in September.

Over the past few weeks, Jakarta, Papua, West Papua, and several other Indonesian provinces have been striving to cope with a severe second wave of COVID-19 infections, driven by the more transmissible Delta variant of the virus.

As the host of both PON National Games and National Para Games, Silwanus Sumule has appealed to all members of society to participate actively in the fight against coronavirus ahead of the convening of the two important sporting events in Papua.

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