COVID-19 Op-ed

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

Hugo Ramsey Teo and Sayyid Muhammad JundullahInterns 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 InformationAccess 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 PrivacyThe 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: 804-20-480212/kip-kritik-kemenkes-data-pribadi-2-wni-positif-corona-bocorJakarta 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 Battle. Retrieved from: (2020, 17 March). Ironisnya Pelayanan di RS Rujukan untuk Pasien Covid-19. 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 Dipercaya? Retrieved from: (2020, 12 April). Pemerintah didesak Perhatikan Keselamatan Tenaga Medis. Retrived from : (2020, 14 March). Menyangkal Krisis Menuai Bencana. Retrieved from: (2020, 24 March). 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