Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration must make the case for a lockdown in Indonesia as the COVID-19 pandemic is projected to overrun health systems and put a strain on the economy, which may lead to social unrest, according to a recent report by a London-based business consulting group, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
The report, released on Friday, casts a dark outlook over the country's fight against the pandemic while also emphasizing the need for a lockdown to curtail the spread of the coronavirus. The group stated that Indonesia did not have enough resources and lacked the ability to contain the spread of COVID-19.
"The possibility of social unrest is high. It is essential that the government makes the case for lockdowns with clarity, precision and sensitivity, or else a greater number of lives will be lost," the report said.
The EIU projected Indonesia's health system to be overrun with cases, as access to intensive-care beds are limited while protective measures toward health workers remain insufficient.
A leaked document obtained by The Jakarta Post on March 13 shows that, of the Health Ministry's list of 132 COVID-19 referral hospitals, only 49 are "ready". The document is the minutes of a meeting involving several institutions, including the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) and the Health Ministry, on March 10.
"As in many low- and middle-income countries, this lack of capacity is likely to raise the fatality rate. Health workers will also face higher risks than in some developed countries owing to a lack of protective equipment," the report stated.
On the economic front, the EIU projects COVID-19 to severely disrupt the Indonesian economy despite coordinated and swift responses from the government and Bank Indonesia (BI) to keep the economy afloat.
"The government and BI have so far provided a coordinated response, but a steep slowdown this year is certain. The economy will suffer deeply," according to the report.
Indonesia has allocated Rp 120 trillion (US$7.5 billion) from this year's state budget for stimulus packages to cushion the economic impacts of the pandemic. The central government has also bought about Rp 163 trillion worth of government bonds to stabilize the country's financial market.
Despite such efforts, BI data recorded Rp 105.1 trillion in capital outflow as of Thursday, of which foreign investors dumped Rp 92.8 trillion worth of government bonds and Rp 8.3 trillion in stocks.
The rupiah has weakened more than 15 percent against the dollar this year, touching Rp 16,000 per US dollar as of Friday, a level unseen since the 1998 crisis.
The EIU also put a spotlight on the impact the COVID-19 will have on Ramadan and Idul Fitri, when the group predicts millions will be barred from going to their hometown during the holiday season's annual exodus.
"We believe that the government will be forced to restrict travel during Idul Fitri, if not before. This would be unprecedented, and a significant military and police presence could be required to maintain order," the report said. (mpr)