Jakarta (Reuters) – Trust in Indonesian President Joko Widodo's ability to handle the coronavirus pandemic has fallen sharply among the public, a survey showed, as the authorities struggle to contain a wave of Covid-19 infections that has pushed hospitals to breaking point.
Fuelled by the spread of the more virulent Delta variant, Indonesia has reported more new Covid-19 cases than any country in the world, according to the latest seven-day average from a Reuters data tracker. It was second only to Brazil in terms of the number of deaths.
The opinion poll by The Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI), which was conducted late last month before the worst of the current outbreak, showed trust that the President can handle the pandemic fell to 43 per cent compared with 56.5 per cent in a poll in February.
"Trust in the President's ability to overcome the pandemic declined steeply in the past four months," said LSI executive director Djayadi Hanan, adding that trust in the government was important to enforce programmes such as vaccinations and movement curbs.
The findings of the survey, which covered 1,200 respondents, showed overall trust in the President's response still outweighed distrust, with 22.6 per cent not trusting his actions and 32 per cent neutral.
Asked for comment on the survey, a spokesman for the President said he has not studied the poll.
The government has faced criticism in some media of its handling of the pandemic, with the Jakarta Post running an editorial on July 3 entitled They Did Not Have To Die, blaming a delay in bringing in restrictions for unnecessary deaths.
Meanwhile, the publication Tempo in an editorial on Monday (July 19) said a denial of the gravity of the situation had prevented officials from taking the decisions to control the outbreak.
Risk communications specialist Elina Ciptadi said that to win back trust, the President should take on a direct role in communications to ensure uniform and fact-based messaging.
"If government officials all say it's under control, but facts on the ground are that hospitals are overloaded and people get turned down, they lose credibility," she said.
Indonesia imposed its strictest measures to contain the virus on July 3 and the government is considering whether to extend them when they expire on Tuesday.
The authorities have also called on people in the world's largest Muslim-majority country not to gather in crowds to celebrate the Eid-Al-Adha festival on Tuesday, when Muslims slaughter animals and share the meat among family and the poor.