Jakarta – The State Palace vowed compliance with health protocol on Tuesday after President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and several ministers faced criticism on social media for not wearing masks in photographs taken during a Cabinet meeting on Monday.
In the photos posted on the Cabinet Secretariat's Twitter account @setkabgoid on Monday, Jokowi was seen without a mask while leading a limited Cabinet meeting discussing the COVID-19 pandemic and the national economic recovery at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta.
Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan, Coordinating Economic Minister Airlangga Hartarto and Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD were seen sitting opposite the President, also without masks on.
Some other ministers present in the meeting, such as Finance Minister Sri Mulyani, State Secretary Pratikno and Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung, were seen complying with the mask rule.
Social media users took to Twitter to remind Jokowi and his ministers to wear masks during the pandemic, particularly as the national COVID-19 task force's guidelines – issued on the order of the President himself – urged everyone to wear masks to prevent further COVID-19 transmission.
Jokowi and the task force have repeatedly asked the public to prepare for a "new normal", stressing that physical distancing and mask-wearing were likely to stay. By the end of May, the President even deployed the Indonesian Military and National Police to guard crowded places and ensure people comply with health protocol.Regulations imposed by regional governments stipulate fines for people caught mask-less in public, up to Rp 150,000 (US$10.29) in the case of West Java.
Also on Monday, Jokowi slammed his ministers and officials over poor COVID-19 budget management during the meeting, pointing out how government institutions had no sense of urgency with regard to tackling the pandemic.
On Tuesday, Presidential Secretariat head Heru Budi Hartono responded to the public criticism, saying the President and the ministers had complied with health protocol and had been "putting the masks on and off" during the meeting, since their voices were sometimes unclear when speaking with masks on.
"Acrylic partition glass was also installed [on the table] there," Heru said on Tuesday as quoted by kompas.com.
The participants of the meeting had also maintained physical distancing all the time and everyone coming to the Presidential Palace had been obliged to undergo COVID-19 tests – both a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and a rapid test – prior to meeting the President, he added.
"Even after having tested [negative] using a swab test the day before, the person must still take the rapid test on the day [of the meeting]," Heru said.
Recently, two regional leaders, namely Surakarta Deputy Mayor Achmad Purnomo and Riau Islands Governor Isdianto, tested positive of the coronavirus days after meeting with Jokowi.
The President took a swab test shortly after Achmad's result came out and tested negative, while the State Palace said Isdianto had tested negative in a PCR test two days before his inauguration ceremony as the governor in Jakarta on July 27 and that his rapid test taken right before the ceremony had also been negative. (trn)