COVID-19 Op-ed

Distancing in the Workplace: Will the “New Normal” Guidelines Actually Work in Indonesia?

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Tareq Muhammad Aziz Elven and Alifa
Tareq is a researcher at the Center for
Constitution and Government Studies, Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta,
Indonesia. Alifa is a Master Student in American Studies, Universitas Gadjah
Mada, Indonesia

The Indonesian Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto has
recently issued a new health protocol for workplaces to adapt with the
COVID-19. The Ministerial Decree Number HK.01.07/MENKES/328/2020 emphasizes
that businesses and offices are among the key risks to the COVID-19
transmission in Indonesia.This decree was issued as a follow up on President Joko
Widodo’s call for new normal scenario, which enables
people to “coexist with the virus.”It specifically details out how offices
should operate during the large-scale social restriction (PSBB) by including
measures such as one-meter distance of each worker in workplaces (The Jakarta
Post, 2020).Regrettably, many violations against pandemic policies were found
during the PSBB, let alone business units. There are many non-essential
industries continued its business as usual even after being restricted by the
government (The Jakarta Post, 2020). Experts from various backgrounds
conclude that the lack of systematic and stringent measures from the
government in mitigating the pandemic is responsible for the worsen
situation.For instance, Karawang is one of the major industrial cities in
Indonesia where violations are rampant (Tempo, 2020). Despite the PSBB that
is in place since 6 May 2020, the local government continues to allow
laborers to work in normal work hours and even longer as
long as they are following the directed health protocol (Pasar Dana, 2020).
Unfortunately, with the nature of workplaces in manufactories, these
workplaces are highly risky to the COVID-19 transmission.As reported by the
World Health Organization (WHO, 2020), the symptoms of COVID-19 are varied,
it can be either no symptoms (asymptomatic) or pre-symptomatic. In Surabaya,
HM Sampoerna tobacco factory’s outbreak is reported due to workers who are
not aware that they are infected. Began with two workers died of the COVID-19
on 14 April 2020, it has now reached more than 77 confirmed cases and it has
turned Surabaya into a ‘black zone,’ as cases mount to over 3,000 on 3 June
2020 (The Jakarta Post, 2020).Taylor (2019) explains that there are three
essential elements in a pandemic: an infectious agent, a host, and
environments. The COVID-19 itself is not the first pandemic the world has
ever had to face. Prior to the COVID-19, the world had experienced the
Plague, Spanish Influenza, MERS, SARS, and Ebola (Griffin and Denholm,
2020).Yet, the governments and the people are relatively far from being
reflective to learn and take lessons from all the previous pandemics that had
happened inside or outside of their borders. Reflectively speaking, these
previous pandemics should have prepared countries better in term of
strategies and precautions to prevent and fight against the pandemic. With
science and lessons grounding the consideration of the policies, every
government needs to address the issue clearly and strictly.Unfortunately, in
the Indonesian context, the government has to admit that they had not taken
the pandemic seriously during the early outbreak. Thus, rushing to another
level of adjustment as in the “new normal,” will not shed any lights to what
already is worsening in Indonesia.References:Ahmad
Fikri. Tempo. “Langgar PSBB Jabar, Izin Kegiatan 58 Industri Dicabut.” 20 May
2020. Retrieved from,
David and Denholm, Justin. “This isn’t the first global pandemic, and it
won’t be the last. Here’s what we’ve learned from 4 others throughout
history.” The Conversation. 17 April 2020. Retrieved
Adelayanti. UGM News. “The New Normal Primary Prerequisite Health
Infrastructure.” 27 May 2020. Retrieved from
Pasar Dana. “Meski Ada PSBB, Bupati Karawang Izinkan Buruh Pabrik Tetap
Bekerja.” 6 May 2020. Retrieved from,
Steven. The Psychology of Pandemics: Preparing for the Next Global
Outbreak of Infectious Disease
. New Castle, Cambridge Scholars
Publishing, 2016.The Economist. “Getting back to work: What will be the new
normal for offices?” 9 May 2020. Retrieved from
Jakarta Post. “COVID-19: Surabaya turns into ‘black zone’ as cases mount.” 3
June 2020. Retrieved from
Jakarta Post. “COVID-19: Health minister issues ‘new normal’ guidelines for
workplaces.” 25 May 2020. Retrieved from
Jakarta Post. “Indonesia to evaluate partial lockdown as companies, factories
continue business as usual.” 21 April 2020. Retrieved from
Health Organization. “Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report –
73.” 2 April 2020. Retrieved from

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