Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan slams red tape in coronavirus pandemic fight

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan strongly criticised the Health Ministry's new guidelines on large-scale social restrictions. PHOTO: ANIES BASWEDAN/FACEBOOK

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan has accused the central government of stonewalling his efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus by issuing a ministerial regulation that prevents him from directly imposing stricter measures to limit people's mobility.

Under pressure to control rising case numbers and fatalities in the capital, Mr Anies strongly criticised the Health Ministry's new guidelines on large-scale social restrictions, also known as PSBB, that include an assessment process and showed "no sense of urgency" amid the health crisis.

"(It's) as if we are proposing a project that needs a feasibility study," he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday (April 5). "Can't the ministry see that we are facing a rising death toll? Is that not enough?"

Last week, President Joko Widodo said that in lieu of a regional or national lockdown, regions could enforce physical distancing rules in their fight against Covid-19.

According to Government Regulation No. 21/2020 on the large-scale social restrictions, provinces and cities are required to obtain a permit from the Health Ministry to impose the policy. It also stipulates that a governor may limit mobility only within his province. As of Sunday, no region has obtained such a permit.

According to a ministerial regulation issued by the Health Ministry last Friday, regional heads who want to enact the PSBB have to submit requests alongside data on the increase of cases by also providing an epidemiology curve and a map on the spread of the virus as well as data proving that transmission had already occurred in their region. The cases in question refer to the number of patients under surveillance and those having been confirmed through testing.

The request would then be discussed by an expert team appointed by the health minister in consultation with Covid-19 fast response team chief Doni Monardo, who also heads the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB). Other than regional leaders, the Covid-19 fast response team chief can also submit such a request.

The Health Ministry must make a decision within two days of the submission of the request, the regulation says. The restrictions should then be implemented for 14 days, which can be extended if there are still proven cases of transmission.

The restrictions cover the closing down of schools and offices, limitations of religious activities, activities in public places, social and cultural events, transportation restrictions and activities related to security and defence.

Mr Anies said he had sent a PSBB request to Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto last Wednesday before the ministerial regulation was issued and would wait for an answer instead of sending a new letter. The request was being discussed by the Health Ministry's team on Sunday afternoon.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.