COVID-19 Op-ed

Covid-19-Induced Discrimination is making Our Pandemic Experience much Worse

Written by admin

Selma Theofany

Selma completed her study
in Department of International Relations Universitas Gadjah Mada. Currently
she is serving as a researcher at the SETARA Institute for Democracy and

COVID-19 has already infected Indonesia, with Jakarta being
the epicenter of the spread (Taher, 2020). As of this writing, the
number of positive cases in the country has reached 1.046, with 87 patients
died and 46 patients recovered. Aside from these numbers, there are people
categorized as monitored persons (Orang dalam
/ODP) and monitored patients (Pasien dalam
/PDP). Unfortunately, COVID-19 has induced
discrimination in many forms all throughout the country.The
Rise of Fear and Panic
Public concerns toward COVID-19
exponentially increased after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared
the condition as a pandemic. It also called on governments to take urgent and
aggressive action, and announced COVID-19 as a threat to health security.
Peter Hough in International Security Studies (2015)
stated that for ages, the work of WHO have been acknowledged in health
securitization, especially in this era of information.However, in the time of
COVID-19 securitization, amidst strong calls for immediate and effective
action, the Indonesian government’s late response to cases led to it still
scrambling for ways to deal with the situation. For one, it failed to detect
cases in the early phase of the health crisis. This situation alarmed WHO,
which led to sending a letter to President Joko Widodo to scale up emergency
response mechanisms, including to declare a state of national emergency. The
Government acted to scale things up, such as forming a task force. (The
Jakarta Post, 2020) However, such late response induced public fear panic due
to the sad state of the public health care system. (Hastuti, 2020)This
fear and panic transformed into a “watchful” state of mind. People began to
take notice of their condition and the surrounding. They differentiate who is
more likely to be infected by COVID-19 and who is relatively safe. Those who
can like be exposed to the virus are stigmatized. This differentiation can
lead to a binary perspective which push people to take a side. Some who think
are safe refuse to accommodate those who are on high risk—leading to
discrimination against the vulnerable other.Discrimination and
The Need to Overcome
Cases of discrimination against those
labelled as “the dangerous carriers of the virus” are happening left and
right in many parts of Indonesia. The two-first COVID-10 cases themselves
experienced discrimination and intimidation when their personal information
was publicly revealed. This gravely affected their mental health. (CNN
Indonesia, 2020) This social treatment is perhaps experienced by other
patients, ODP, and PDP, as well as healthcare front-liners. In fact, several
medical personnel in Yogyakarta attended to a positive case were reported to
have been stigmatized by their colleagues and the society. (Suryani,
2020) In Jakarta, several nurses and doctors who work at RSUP
– one of many designated COVID-19 hospitals- also
experienced different degrees of discrimination. Worse, stated by the chief
of Indonesian National Nurses Association (PPNI), some of them were kicked
out from boarding houses due unfounded fear of contamination (Mantalean,
2020). Though, efforts by Governor of DKI Jakarta to provide a resting place
for medical personnel in Jakarta had eased tensions. Similar initiatives need
to be encouraged.Both patients and medical personnel have double burdens in
time of this pandemic. They struggle to overcome the virus, as well as,
discrimination they face. Unfortunately the government could not deal with
this emerging social challenge, as it is still learning the ropes on how to
strike the balance between mitigating COVID-19 and maintaining social and
economic order throughout Indonesia.Yet, discrimination, like the virus, is
very contagious and has been ruining lives as we speak. The Indonesian
government has to stand firm, and impose systematic ways to eliminate
Covid-19 induced discrimination. Otherwise, irreversible gaps might widen,
and might ruin Indonesian social fabric even after this deadly virus is
treated.BibliographyBBC. (2020, March 11).
Coronavirus confirmed as pandemic by World Health
. Retrieved from BBC:
Indonesia. (2020, March 24). ELSAM: Buka Data Pribadi Pasien
Covid-19 Potensi Diskriminasi
. Retrieved from CNN Indonesia:,
R. K. (2020, March 19). Kapasitas Terbatas, Positif Corona Tak
Harus Dirawat di RS
. Retrieved from CNBC Indonesia:,
P. (2015). Health and security. In e. Peter Hough, International
Security Studies
(p. 266). New York: Routledge.Mantalean, V.
(2020, March 25). Rawat Pasien Covid-19, Tenaga Medis Diusir dari Kos
hingga Harus Menginap
. Retrieved from,
B. (2020, March 26). Sedih, Perawat di Jogja yang Rawat Pasien
Positif Covid-19 Justru Didiskriminasikan
. Retrieved from Harian
A. P. (2020, March 28). Update Corona di RI: 1.046 Positif, 87
Meninggal & Mudik Dilarang?
Retrieved from
Jakarta Post. (2020, March 14). COVID-19: WHO urges Jokowi to
declare national emergency
. Retrieved from The Jakarta Post:

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