Rizki Fachriansyah, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has reminded his aides to prioritize health and COVID-19 mitigation to ensure the survival of all facets of the nation's development, including the country's economy, which has been battered by the global pandemic.
Health is key to economic recovery, Jokowi said. "Good health will lead to a good economy," the President said during a meeting with his Cabinet members. "Our number one focus is health and COVID-19 mitigation."
He called on the national COVID-19 and economic recovery committee, as well as other related authorities, to put pandemic mitigation above all else, saying that economic recovery could only begin once public health has been restored.
The President also warned about the possibility of the upcoming regional elections – set to take place on Dec. 9 – creating new COVID-19 infection clusters, urging the Home Ministry to take the necessary precautions to anticipate and prevent health hazards during the major political event.
Furthermore, Jokowi called on the Health Ministry to devise a comprehensive testing plan so that every region across the archipelago could gain access to equal testing.
"Let's not restart the economy before we have properly handled this COVID-19 issue," Jokowi added.
The President's statement came as an about-face following a number of government policies that sought to expedite the reopening of the country's business sector and other public activities despite lingering virus fears.
In May, for instance, the Transportation Ministry caught flak for allowing public transportation services to resume even as the Idul Fitri mudik (exodus) ban remained in effect due to COVID-19 concerns.
Last month, the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry decided to postpone its initial plans to reopen several top tourist destinations in the country, including Bali, as the pandemic continued unabated.
Meanwhile, in Jakarta, the number of COVID-19 cases has continued to soar following its decision to ease previously imposed restrictions as the capital, Indonesia's financial hub and an engine of growth for the economy, gradually reopened the economy and businesses under health protocols beginning early June.
The Health Ministry announced 3,444 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Sunday, bringing the total number of infections nationwide to 194,109.
The latest daily figures continue the upward COVID-19 trend in the archipelago, which began spiking in early August with health authorities confirming thousands of new cases every day.
According to data released by the ministry on Sunday, 85 more people have died of the disease, bringing the death toll to 8,025.