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Highlights in the media today: Government drafts regulation for national COVID-19 vaccination program, Mask-wearing up but not everyone washes hands, World Bank: Indonesia’s economy might contract further.  

The government is drafting a presidential regulation for the national COVID-19 vaccination program, with President Joko Widodo demanding during a Cabinet meeting on Monday (September 28) that a detailed road map be ready within two weeks.

The government is reportedly planning to administer vaccines to six priority groups in up to five stages over a year beginning in January 2021: 1.3 million frontline medical workers; 50,000 people in close contact with COVID-19 patients; more than 715,000 public service workers; 92 million members of the general public; 4.3 million educators; and 3.7 million government and legislative officials.

Learning from the country’s previous vaccination programs, carrying out vaccinations in Indonesia might not be easy. According to a vaccine confidence survey conducted by “The Lancet” between November 2015 and December 2019 in more than 149 countries, Indonesia has seen “large drops in confidence” in three key aspects: vaccine safety, significance, and effectiveness.

The drop was partly caused by Muslim leaders questioning the safety and halal status of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, which then led to the issuance of a fatwa declaring it haram.

As of September 30 16:10 (GMT+7), Indonesia had confirmed 287,008 COVID-19 cases, with 214,947 recoveries and 10,740 deaths.

An online survey conducted by the Statistics Indonesia (BPS) from September 7-14, involving 90,967 respondents across the country, revealed that the rate of people’s adherence to mask-wearing requirements was higher than other health protocols, such as hand washing and physical distancing.

According to the survey results, around 92% of respondents wore face masks in public, while 75.38% and 73.54% regularly washed their hands and maintained a safe physical distance, respectively. The rate of public compliance with the mask-wearing requirements has increased by 8% since April, BPS Head Suhariyanto said, while noting that compliance with the hand-washing and physical-distancing policies had somewhat declined.

Suhariyanto went on to explain that 17% of respondents still believed that it was impossible for them to contract the COVID-19 disease. Respondents aged between 17 and 30 tended to be more skeptical of their susceptibility to the virus than those aged over 60, he added.

Indonesia’s economy could contract more than expected if the COVID-19 pandemic remained uncontrolled, as the country faced an “uneven and volatile” economic recovery, the World Bank said. The development bank now projects Indonesia’s economy to contract by 1.6% this year under the baseline scenario; in June it had projected zero growth.

However, the economy may even contract by 2% if the country fails to control the pandemic, according to the World Bank’s East Asia and Pacific Economic Update published on Tuesday (September 29). To revive the economy, Indonesia has allocated Rp695.2 trillion in stimulus spending and widened the budget deficit target to 6.34% of the gross domestic product (GDP).

However, significant expenditure on stimulus and lower revenues may leave an indebted government less equipped to invest in infrastructure and growth, according to World Bank Acting Lead Economist for Indonesia Ralph Van Doorn.

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