Jakarta – The Education and Culture Ministry has announced that 123 college students across the country were tested positive for COVID-19 after taking part in protests against the Job Creation Law.
"After the rallies, COVID-19 task force spokesperson Wiku Adisasmito reported that 123 college students had been tested positive for COVID-19," the ministry's higher education director general, Nizam, said on Sunday as reported by kompas.com.
He went on to say that the majority of the cases were reported in Jakarta with 34 students, followed by Surabaya in East Java with 24, Medan of North Sumatera with 21, and Bandung in West Java with 13 students. The remaining 31 students tested positive in other parts of the country.
However, the information reported by Nizam differs slightly from a statement issued by Wiku last week.
Wiku previously said that rapid tests conducted on thousands of protesters in police custody in six provinces showed 123 reactive results, meaning that the results were taken from protesters in general and not just from students.
Students and workers have staged numerous demonstrations against the Job Creation Law since the House of Representatives approved the Job Creation Law on Oct. 5.
Nizam said the ministry had issued a circular to dissuade college students from taking part in rallies over concern of COVID-19 transmission.
He argued that, instead of staging protests, students should conduct academic studies on the newly passed law.
"The main strength of college students is their intellectual powers. They should provide input for the law through strong academic studies," Nizam said.
Meanwhile, Bekasi Police chief Sr.comr. Hendra Gunawan said on Saturday that eight Bekasi police officers deployed to handle rallies against the Job Creation Law had tested positive for COVID-19.
"Some protesters might have neglected health protocol, especially when giving speeches or when talking, such as by removing their masks. They probably got infected there," Hendra said.
He added that the police would conduct massive swab testing and implement stricter monitoring on adherence to health protocol.
The Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) previously warned of the possibility of new COVID-19 clusters following demonstrations against the Job Creation Law. It also highlighted the difficulty of tracing virus transmission that had resulted from the demonstrations that had taken place in many parts of the country.
Hermawan Saputra of the Indonesian Public Health Experts Association (IAKMI) said the House's decision to pass the controversial law amid the COVID-19 pandemic was not ideal.
"It's ironic that, amid the government's efforts to persuade the public to adhere to health protocols, the government passed a controversial law that would cause a public outcry and potentially increase transmission risks [through protests]" Hermawan said.
As of Sunday, Indonesia reported 361,867 cases of COVID-19 with 285,324 recoveries and 12,511 fatalities. (nal)