Despite implementing strict PSBB (Pembatasan Sosial Berskala Besar) orders in Jakarta since April and in other provinces shortly thereafter, numbers of coronavirus cases in Indonesia are increasing even more rapidly, with a high of 949 new cases at the 22nd of May. How is this possible? Perhaps, these ‘strict’ orders are proven to not be strict enough for it to be effective.

It has been a tradition where migrant or migrant workers return to their hometown or village to visit their families during or before major holidays, mainly Lebaran or Eid al-Fitr. This traditional activity is called mudik in Indonesia and local governments are imposing strict orders to discourage people from going back to their villages even though it is nearing Lebaran, as an effort to contain the coronavirus spread. However, these orders do not seem to meet their goal as in fact, a vast number of people in Indonesia are violating these orders where thousands of people are flocking airports, seaports and train stations, insisting to travel as it has been an annual tradition to go back to their respective hometowns nearing Lebaran.

Lately, less populated neighboring cities around Jakarta are lifting the strictness of these orders recently, where malls and several facilities are starting to reopen. Several videos are going viral where it can be seen that local citizens come rushing into a mall in Ciledug and another in Rangkasbitung once they reopen. Moreover, Ramayana – a department store in Bogor – continues to operate in spite of the PSBB orders. The store remains open by tricking officers, where lights inside the facility are turned off to seem and appear as if it is closed. In reality, numerous customers are there, struggling to shop in a light-deprived facility. These actions sparked outrage among netizens and a picture depicting a frontline medical worker holding up a sign which reads “Indonesia? Terserah!” which literally translates to “Indonesia? Whatever!”. People are furious over these selfish and inconsiderate acts of aforementioned citizens despite frontliners working hard day and night to help contain the coronavirus spread.

This brings us to a discussion, should Indonesia implement ‘herd immunity’ as a strategy against this pandemic? As quoted from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, when most of a population is immune to an infectious disease, this provides indirect protection—or herd immunity (also called herd protection)—to those who are not immune to the disease. This can be achieved through: vaccination; or previous infections by letting a huge proportion of the population to be infected and hence be immunized. Thereby providing a measure of protection for individuals who are not immune. Though a hard pill to swallow, experts argue that vaccines will not be available in the near future. This leaves the latter method as the only choice to achieve herd immunity, by means of exposing the population to the virus and of no surprise, this act is deemed controversial and inhumane for most. According to Al Jazeera, this idea is approved by politicians and experts in Sweden, the Netherlands and Norway. However, uproar was sparked and the contrary is true when UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his advisers proposed this approach.

Though this idea is against many, it certainly has its own pros and cons. Starting with its downsides, medical workers and facilities will undoubtedly be overwhelmed by the humongous number of infected patients. As a consequence of the incapability of these medical institutions to handle this sheer amount of patients, mass deaths will hence be inevitable, a myriad of citizen lives will be lost. On the other hand, it is expected that people will be immunized against the coronavirus, resulting in a faster end to this pandemic and economies will no longer be hindered.

As of now, the strictness of these orders is being lifted gradually as malls, schools and transportation facilities are expected to reopen and operate in the near future, resulting in local citizens speculating that Indonesian governments are slowly trying to implement the so-called herd immunity. However, this rumor is yet to be backed by substantial proofs. As I am not a public health expert or epidemiologist myself, I cannot conclude and comment about the details of this epidemiological debate, hence I leave the question of whether Indonesia should implement herd immunity for you readers to ponder about.

Source: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Al Jazeera
Image Source: Google
Words by: Devin