COVID-19 Op-ed

The Inevitable Spike: Placing Low-Income Earners at High Risk of Covid-19 in Indonesia

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Joanda Kevin Yoga
Bachelor of Political Science in International
Relations of Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta & Local Engagement
Staff of Jogja SDGs

The Indonesian government had been prematurely easing
restrictions on activities and movements to restart the economy, which gives
a false sense of security to all. However, this decision has begun showing
adverse effects, including increased health risks for low-income earners,
particularly in relation to access to clean water and health protection in
light of economic activities.Limited
access to clean water
Before the COVID-19
outbreak, Indonesia has already been facing problems in relation to limited
access to clean water. Data from the Indonesian Central Bureau of Statistics
in 2018 show that only 74 percent of Indonesians living in urban areas have
adequate access to drinking water (Nasir S. , 2020). This has been the case
for low-income people (≤Rp.1.8 million or USD 127.4 income per month) who
live in high-density cities. Including Jakarta dwellers who could not access
and afford clean water services because most of clean water service are still
managed by private companies (Ambari, 2020).To mitigate the spread of the
virus,  the Indonesian appealed the public to regularly wash their hands
with water for 20 seconds. This will reduce chances of getting infected by 40
percent t (Nasir S. , 2020). It also encouraged people to bathe and wash
their clothes immediately after returning from outdoor
activities.Nevertheless, such practices prove to be challenging low-income
earners, who have limited access to clean water and hygienic products.
(Firdaus, 2018). Some have to even spend Rp360.000,00 (USD 27) per month to
buy water for daily needs consumption (Syakriah, 2020). Those who live by the
riverbanks are forced to use unhygienic river water to fend for their needs.
(Haira, 2019). Even worse, current data shows 70.53 percent have experienced
a dramatic decrease of income due to economic restrictios caused by Covid-19
(Putranto, et al., 2020). This means that, at present and in the future,
there will be a spike in the number of high risk individuals due to their
inability to comply with guidelines for basic hygiene.More physical interaction
may lead to health deterioration
As part of
enabling the reopening of the local economy, traditional markets have been
allowed to open. However, they have been unable provide opportunities for
vendors and shoppers to protect themselves from getting infected by Covid-19.
Hand-washing facilities are scarce, and physical distancing is difficult to
practice. In Jakarta, this led to the closure of 19 traditional markets after
51 vendors are tested positive for the virus (Nasir, 2020).Ride-hailing
service drivers also have to deal with the similar problem. Even if the
government allows them to carry passengers again, however with health
protocols, direct interaction with the passenger is unavoidable (Silviana,
2020).Some local government units and the private sector have already stepped
up to address various issues. For example, the local governments of Surabaya
and Malang decided to enforce free of charge of water bill during the crisis
for clean water service consumers. A response was also taken by Gojek, which
just launched a health control mechanism at the end of June (Silviana, 2020).
However, there is still much more to do to protect these people.There is
still so much do be done to protect people from Covid-19. First, affordable,
or even free, access to clean water  has to be made available to
all—despite one’s geographic location and economic status. It must also
invest on hand-washing stations in public places such as traditional markets.
It must also provide incentives for businesses who closely monitor the health
status of their employees and patrons. Finally, the government must integrate
public health in all strategic measures concerning social and economic
activities throughout the country. As Indonesia’s Covid-19 cases continue to
rise, the government must remind itself of its primary duty to protect anyone
from being the next probable prey of this deadly virus.References:Ambari,
M. (2020, March 23). Kebutuhan Air Bersih di Tengah Pandemi
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F. (2018, May 21). Jakarta’s Water Woes. Retrieved June
16, 2020, from New Internationalist:,
N. (2019, April 18). The Crisis of Clean Water in the Riverbank
. Retrieved June 16, 2020, from Project Child:,
M. (2020, June 13). Pasar Jadi Kluster Baru Penularan Covid-19 di
DKI Jakarta
. Retrieved June 15, 2020, from Sindo News:,
S. (2020, April 11). Indonesia’s poor can’t even afford to wash
. Retrieved June 16, 2020, from The Jakarta Post:,
W. P., Riyadi, Larasaty, P., Kurniasih, A., Pratiwi, A. I., Saputri, V. G.,
et al. (2020). Hasil Survei Sosial Demografi Dampak
Jakarta: Badan Pusat Statistik Republik
Indonesia.Silviana, C. (2020, June 10). Indonesia allows Gojek and
Grab to carry passengers again
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A. (2020, March 24). Hand washing to counter COVID-19 still a
luxury for Indonesia’s urban poor
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The Jakarta Post:

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