The View From Asia

Stay vigilant against Covid-19

Asia News Network writers draw attention to missteps in containing the pandemic. Here are excerpts.

A street market in Manila on Dec 3, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

Indonesia's inadequate Covid-19 response

Muhammad Zulfikar Rahmat

The Jakarta Post, Indonesia

Indonesia's failure to reduce the number of Covid-19 cases nine months after declaring its first cases in March reflects its slow and poor responses to the spread of the pandemic. Its handling of the virus has taken a toll on the country's global reputation.

Since March, President Joko Widodo has issued many policies in response to the pandemic, such as enforcing a partial lockdown, encouraging social distancing and allocating a special budget for Covid-19 responses. However, in focusing more on economic stability than public health, the government's policy approach has raised concerns about the failure to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Human Rights Watch says Indonesia's government is failing to provide transparent access to information to battle the Covid-19 outbreak. The capital, Jakarta, has failed to provide precise data on how many cases it has.

Instead, the authorities are using Indonesia's long-abused criminal defamation laws to silence public criticism of the government's response to the pandemic.

A report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a non-partisan foreign policy think-tank, shows that misplaced priorities and distrust of data have contributed to Indonesia's failures to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The narratives surrounding Indonesia's inability to deal with the pandemic have damaged the country's image globally.

The 2020 Asia Power Index survey, released by the Sydney-based Lowy Institute, found Indonesia's diplomatic influence fell by 5.2 per cent due to its poor handling of Covid-19.

It said as many as 95 per cent of people in Australia doubt the Indonesian President's ability to handle global issues such as the pandemic These kinds of doubts could affect Indonesia's tourism, trade and investment.

The safest bet

Editorial

Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Philippines

The clarification came two days after Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano created confusion when he stated that children may soon be allowed to leave their homes, and go to the malls, under general community quarantine.

The directive was met with caution, particularly from health experts who warned that children and young adults may be key to spreading the virus. It could even be fatal if they live with senior citizens and bring the virus home.

Recent studies have also debunked earlier theories that children are less susceptible to infection and transmission.

But it's not only minors who can be super spreaders. Adults who disregard health protocols could spread the virus too, like what happened in Subic, where a surge in infections last month was traced to employees who attended two parties where they did not wear face masks or observe physical distancing. The infected employees, reports said, were also not honest with their health declaration and continued reporting for work, eventually exposing their co-workers.

The message remains clear, both for adults and minors: Unless it's absolutely necessary, continue to stay home.

Leverage technology to defeat pandemic

M.C. Hughes

China Daily (Asia), Hong Kong

The government is missing a trick if it neglects to seize upon an obvious opportunity to regain the confidence of the very people it swore to serve.

The validity of implementing yet another community-wide testing scheme must be questioned, because if it is anything like the one in September, then it is doomed to fail.

But if we can leverage technology into community testing schemes, perhaps we can turn the tide, even just a little bit.

The new test-and-trace mobile application "LeaveHomeSafe" has been developed by the Hong Kong government with the intention of allowing more efficient identification of chains of infection around the city. Users can simply open the app to scan the QR code of participating venues to mark their visit.

However, there are some glaringly obvious issues with the scheme. For one thing, not all venues are required to carry the "LeaveHomeSafe" QR code, and visitors are not lawfully required to check-in at participating venues.

With that in mind, in the event that an outbreak is identified at a particular venue, how can we be sure that each and every person who visited said venue has been contacted? This means that asymptomatic carriers remain unidentified within the population.

If we wield technologies such as "LeaveHomeSafe" properly, then we can use it to reach more of the community and get them tested.

Politics amid pandemic

Zahid Hussain

Dawn, Pakistan

Nothing could be more ridiculous than using the government's callousness as justification for the opposition's recklessness.

It is true that the government, too, is playing politics with the pandemic and is not serious in dealing with the crisis. But does this validate irresponsible behaviour from the other side on whatever pretext? Human lives are more important than this inane game of political point-scoring.

In the midst of this power game, the battle against the rampaging contagion seems to have lost its focus.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is claiming credit for effectively containing the first wave of the pandemic and at the same time keeping the economy afloat, seems too busy fighting the opposition to focus on this more serious issue.

The worsening political confrontation has also affected all efforts to formulate a national strategy to fight the second wave. Each province is going its own way.

Unfortunately, the opposition is flaunting the government's ineptitude to rationalise its own defiance. There is an ironic shift in their respective positions on battling the contagion. While the Prime Minister had vehemently opposed a lockdown during the first wave, the opposition was shouting from the rooftops calling for a total shutdown. Now there is a complete turnaround in the opposition's stance.

The ruthless power game is taking the country to the precipice.

• The View From Asia is a compilation of articles from The Straits Times' media partner Asia News Network, a grouping of 23 news media titles.

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