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Highlights in the media today: Gravediggers under strain as number of COVID-19 burials surges, Govt under pressure to postpone regional elections, Economists say govt needs to boost social safety net to offset impact of PSBB. 

Gravediggers in Jakarta have been working longer hours as the number of COVID-19 burials surges in Jakarta, putting themselves and their families at a higher risk of infection. The lax implementation of health protocols in the capital city might have contributed to the spike.

After an initial surge at the start of the pandemic, burials in Jakarta had dropped to a daily average of around 20-30 in July and August. However, the number shot up in September to between 50 and more than 60 per day, data from the city government showed.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said that more land had been earmarked for graves. The number of deaths across Indonesia has averaged at 114 per day over the past week, or up from 64 a month ago.

Meanwhile, the government is facing mounting pressure to postpone the regional elections scheduled for December amid concerns about greater COVID-19 transmission across the country.

As of September 22 15:30 (GMT+7), Indonesia had confirmed 252,923 COVID-19 cases, with 184,298 recoveries and 9,837 deaths. In the past 24 hours, the country recorded 4,071 new cases.

The country’s two largest grassroots Islamic organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, are among the latest civil society groups to call for a delay to the simultaneous elections, in order to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission. The two groups expressed concerns that the election process, particularly the campaigning, would inevitably involve a large number of people and therefore increase the risk of the virus spreading.

The wider public also appears to be in support of a postponement. A July survey held by Indikator Politik Indonesia found that 63.1% of respondents preferred to have the elections postponed. A similar poll by Charta Politika revealed that 54.2% of the respondents disagreed with the decision to hold the elections in December.

Moreover, the government will need to augment its social safety net to offset the economic blow of the reimposed large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) in Jakarta, Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (Indef) economist Izzudin Farras warned.

He said on Thursday (September 18) that if Jakarta’s economy remained negative in Q3, with the apparent impact since July and August, it would hit the national economy and indicate recession at the national level.

Izzudin added that the government needed to improve its social assistance programs by placing more emphasis on the millions of vulnerable members of the middle class who were prone to falling into poverty because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Policymakers should expand and update the Social Affairs Ministry’s Integrated Data for Social Welfare (DTKS), he said, to cover 60% of the nation’s poorest people, an increase from the bottom 40% currently accounted for.

Source:

  • Kompas.com, September 22, 2020, Indonesia confirms 252,923 COVID-19 cases

  • The Jakarta Post, September 22, 2020, p.3, Gravediggers under strain as COVID-19 burial surge in Jakarta

  • The Jakarta Post, September 22, 2020, p.1, Religious, political leaders call for poll postponement

  • Kompas, September 22, 2020, Govt ignores public opinion

  • The Jakarta Post, September 22, 2020, p.5, Boost social aid to offset PSBB, says Indef 

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