Waiting for a Mask-Free Indonesia Towards the Covid-19 Endemic

JAKARTA, – The government has made a number of easing following the transition to a normal life era after the Covid-19 pandemic. Currently, the Ministry of Health is compiling a roadmap or roadmap for Indonesia to become endemic.

Secretary of the Directorate General of Public Health at the Ministry of Health (Kemenkes) Siti Nadia Tarmizi said there would be a policy of easing standard health protocols in the preparation of the roadmap.

Several things that are being studied by the Ministry of Health in compiling a roadmap towards the Covid-19 endemic are the possibility of removing masks and no longer being obliged to maintain social distance in community activities.

However, the two easing will not be carried out simultaneously if applied later.

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“We will see what the use of masks looks like, especially we will not carry out easing (prokes) simultaneously,” said Secretary of the Directorate General of the Ministry of Health, Siti Nadia Tarmizi in a virtual press conference, Tuesday (8/3/2022).

According to him, easing social distancing is possible. In particular, in worship activities.

“Such as activities at places of worship because we are about to enter Ramadan, maybe maintaining distance is no longer an indicator so that this distance can be reduced later, but still replacing it with all congregations having to bring their own prayer mats, like that,” he explained.

Meanwhile, the policy of removing masks during the endemic period still depends on the development conditions of Covid-19.

Later, the easing of health protocols on community activities will be carried out in stages.

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“We are adjusting to the trend rather than the rate of transmission, so we will not rush to relax health protocols without assessing the existing situation and conditions,” said Nadia.

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In compiling a roadmap to endemic, the Ministry of Health will carry out two phases, namely pandemic and pre-endemic control.

Nadia said there were several indicators in the pandemic control phase that were set. These indicators are that the local area is at Level 1, the vaccination coverage reaches 70 percent, and the implementation of 3T (testing, tracing and treatment) is carried out according to standards.

“In principle, we are looking for a balance point between health and non-health interests, because this must be synergistic with both,” he explained.

Mask rules and social distancing

The application of standard health protocols is still contained in various regulations currently in force.

As in Circular Number 12 of 2022 concerning Health Protocols for Overseas Travel During the Corona Virus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) Pandemic issued by the Covid-19 Handling Task Force on Tuesday (8/3/2022).

In letter F Number 14 of the Protocol section of this circular, it is stated that strict health protocols for foreign nationals and Indonesian citizens who enter Indonesia must meet the following terms and conditions:

a. Use a 3-ply cloth mask or medical mask that covers the nose, mouth and chin;

b. Change masks regularly every four hours, and dispose of waste masks in the places provided.

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Then Circular Letter Number 11 of 2022 concerning Provisions for Domestic Travel During the Corona Virus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) Pandemic also still regulates the use of masks and the application of social distancing.

The health protocol provisions contained in the circular are:

1. Every individual who travels is obligated to apply and comply with the 3M health protocol, namely: wearing a mask, keeping a distance and avoiding crowds, and washing hands with soap or using a hand sanitizer.

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2. Tightening of people’s travel health protocols that need to be carried out in the form of:

  • Use a three-ply cloth mask or medical mask that covers the nose, mouth and chin;
  • Change masks regularly every four hours, and dispose of waste masks in the places provided;
  • Washing hands regularly using water and soap or hand sanitizer, especially after touching objects touched by other people;
  • Maintain a minimum distance of 1.5 meters from other people and avoid crowds;
  • It is not permitted to speak one way or two ways by telephone or in person throughout the trip using public transportation modes of land, rail, sea, river, lake, ferry, and air;
  • It is not allowed to eat and drink during the flight journey for a journey that is less than two hours, except for individuals who are obliged to take medicine for treatment which if not done can endanger the safety and health of the person.

Easing of applied policies

The government has already begun to relax regulations. Starting from the easing of travel requirements for domestic travelers, to reducing quarantine for foreign travelers.

For relief for domestic travelers, the obligation to show negative antigen and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) results is abolished if they have received a second dose of vaccination or a third dose of vaccination (booster).

In addition, the quarantine period for foreign travelers (PPLN) is shortened to one day, if they have received a full dose of vaccination.

Another easing is that all sports activities can receive physical spectators with a capacity adjusted to PPKM status, booster vaccination status and using the PeduliLindung application.

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The government has also implemented a no-quarantine policy trial for PPLN or international travelers in Bali with certain conditions, including full or booster dose vaccinations and PCR tests.

Not only that, the government will also make adjustments to the Umrah pilgrimage policy following the lifting of a number of regulations by Saudi Arabia, such as mandatory PCR tests and quarantine.

Several regulations for electric rail (KRL) passengers have also been adjusted starting this week. Among them, passengers aged 6 years and under are allowed to ride the KRL and passengers are allowed to sit next to each other without any further distancing.

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The Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment who is also the Coordinator of PPKM Handling for the Java-Bali Region, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said the government made various easing policies to support Indonesia’s period of transitioning to a normal life era.

He emphasized that the decision to issue an easing policy was carried out with an in-depth study.

“We need to emphasize that a policy in the transition process (towards normal) that we will go through together is not done in a hurry,” said Luhut, in a press statement on a virtual PPKM evaluation, Monday (7/3/2022).

“We must be ready to move towards a gradual transition process by implementing existing data-based policies,” he continued.

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