COVID-19 Op-ed

The Indonesian Covid-19 Case: Rising Deaths and Human Rights Violations

Written by admin

Hugo Ramsey Teo and Sayyid Muhammad
Interns and Activists at Amnesty International
Indonesia’s Research and Campaign Departments.

Since the declaration of the Covid-19 pandemic, countries have
taken steps to protect their populations from the spread of the virus.
Unfortunately, Indonesian Government’s initial steps had thrown human rights
aside in favour of preserving a “prosperous economy.” This meant promoting
discounted domestic airfare tickets and devoting billions of Rupiahs to
social influencers to rally for tourism amidst the crisis. The President
initially refused to declare the outbreak as a crisis to avoid mass panic.On
February 2020, the Indonesian Minister of Health felt insulted by a study by
Harvard University, which predicted that Covid-19 had already infected people
living in the country. When the first two cases of Covid-19 were finally
confirmed, the only viable information made by him was pious devotion to God
(Jakarta Post, 2020).The situation in Indonesia is worsening as of this
writing. The intention of this piece is to highlight the situation of human
rights in Indonesia on the following fronts: right to health, right to
information and right to privacy.Right to HealthThe
right to health is provided under the Article 12 of the International
Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), to which
Indonesia is a State-Party. In this light, the government has an obligation
to prevent and treat the Covid-19 outbreak properly. The current situation in
Indonesia is that the death tolls surpassing the number of recovered
patients, which is alarming.The unavailability of sufficient facilities and
workforce at referral hospitals threatens mainly any patient, especially
vulnerable elderly and people with severe pre-existing conditions. Even at
RSUP Persahabatan, one of the top Covid-19 referral hospitals in Jakarta,
lack of ventilators, hindering vulnerable patients to get treated (BBC
Indonesia, 2020). RSUD Pasar Minggu, another referral hospital in Jakarta,
only has 3×4 meter isolation chambers, forced to accomodate up to six
patients. They feared that this could lead to further infections (Kompas,
2020).The lack of access to healthcare has made the situation even much
worse. Hospitals charge Covid-19 testing at a hefty price. Several people
said that they were charged ranging from 300,000 (25 USD) to 1.5 million
Rupiahs (100 USD) (Tirto, 2020). Stories are different for  poor people
with symptoms, which includes misdiagnosis and protracted reluctance by hospitals
to test. Such cases prove the severity of inequality in terms of access to
healthcare.Indonesia only has four doctors and 12 hospital beds per 10,000
people, in comparison with South Korea, which has six times more doctors and
115 hospital beds per 10,000 people (Jakarta Post, 2020). Medical workers
have become most at risk of getting infected and ending up as casualties of
Covid-19. This is brought about by burn-out and insufficient and unequal
distribution of Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs). As of this writing, it
was reported that 32 doctors and 12 nurses had already perished from Covid-19
(Republika, 2020). This statistic is currently the highest in Southeast Asia.
In terms of PPEs, medical workers in Tasikmalaya and Sukabumi had to wear
plastic raincoats (Kompas, 2020).Right to
Access to information is an essential
element to support the right to health and is provided under the Article 19
of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). On March
2020, the Director General of WHO sent a letter to President Joko Widodo,
questioning the transparency of his Government in dealing with COVID-19
(Tempo, 2020). The President stated he ordered to not to reveal data
regarding COVID-19 to the public to prevent mass panic (Tempo, 2020). This is
on top of questionable information held and disseminated by Widodo’s
government.An academic study entitled “Covid-19 Modelling Scenarios:
Indonesia” estimated that if only minimal measures are taken to suppress the
virus, as many as two and a half million people can get infected (Narasi,
2020). It also estimated that Covid-19 might have already been in Indonesia
as early as the end of January (Kumparan, 2020). This affirmed the Harvard
University findings, which the Minister of Health dismissed.Right to
The Indonesian Constitution provides that
every person shall have the right to feel secure. In reality, this isn’t the
case. Covid-19 patients feel very much violated and stigmatized. The right to
be protected from unlawful interference to privacy is provided under ICCPR
and Act No. 14 of 2008 on Public Information Disclosure. The Mayor of Depok
City and the Minister of Health disclosed personal informations of the first
two patients in Indonesia without their consent, which was proved to be
distressing for them (CNN Indonesia, 2020). The profession of the first
detected patient as a dance coach was disclosed. The Ministry of Health
announced that the patient contracted the virus from a Japanese citizen at a
club, without mentioning that the Japanese citizen was the same gender as
her, that led to many ludicrous accusations, e.g. the Japanese citizen was a
man who hired her as other than “a respectable dance coach” (Jakarta Post,
2020).The Government has to learn from this case, which proved the right to
privacy is equally important to protect. Unlawful interference to privacy can
lead not just a violation of one’s will and choice, but it also leads to
negative stigma on the patient and the community he/she/they are interacting
with.The Right to health could not function in a vacuum. The right to
information and privacy, apart from all other rights and freedoms, are key to
ensuring that human rights are protected at all times during a health crisis.
The government should not be in any position to violate any rights during
this period. One violation is enough to call out such breach of commitment to
human rights.References:BBC
Indonesia. (2020, 18 March). Virus corona: Jumlah kasus terus
meningkat, kelengkapan alat kesehatan ‘menipis.’
Retrieved from:
Indonesia. (2020, 5 March). ‘Gagap Gempita’ Komunikasi Lingkaran
Jokowi soal Corona
. Retreived from:
Post (2020, 25 March). Indonesia’s Health System on The Brink as
Corona Virus Surge.
Retrieved from :
Post (2020, March 5). We Should Thank Indonesia’s COVID-19 Case 1
Instead of  Breaching Her Privacy.
Retrieved from :
Post. (2020, 18 March). ‘It’s our nation’s Right to Rely on The
Almighty’ : Minister Justifies Calling for Prayer in Coronavirus
. Retrieved from:
(2020, 17 March). Ironisnya Pelayanan di RS Rujukan untuk Pasien
. Retrieved from:
(2020, 20 March). Petugas Medis di Sukabumi Terpaksa Memakai Jas
Hujan Plastik Tangani PDP Covid-19
. Retrieved from:
(2020, 9 March). Cerita Tim Medis RSUD Tasikmalaya Pakai Jas Hujan
Plastik saat Tangani Pasien Suspect Corona
. Retrieved from:
(2020, 14 March). Menyoal Tempat Uji Corona di RI yang Dianggap
Masih Terbatas
. Retrieved from:
(2020, 8 April). Peneliti UI: Kasus Corona di Indonesia Sudah Ada
Sejak Akhir Januari 2020
. Retrieved from:
(2020, 11 April). Apakah Data Covid-19 Pemerintah Bisa
Retrieved from:
(2020, 12 April). Pemerintah didesak Perhatikan Keselamatan Tenaga
. Retrived from :
(2020, 14 March). Menyangkal Krisis Menuai Bencana.
Retrieved from:
(2020, 24 March). Tes Corona COVID-19: Ironi Nasib Kawula &
Pejabat Indonesia
. Retrieved from:

About the author