This article developed from various sources, ranging from non-governmental organization to small business workers that have been heavily impacted by the pandemic. The names from this article have been changed or unmentioned due to privacy reason.
Because of the coronavirus outbreak, working from home is no longer a privilege; it's a necessity. Yet, not all of us have the opportunity to do it.
There are people with the luxury to do their work from the comfort of their home. However, there are people with jobs that often require personal contact, such as running a cash register or cleaning hotel rooms, or couriers and taxi drivers, who are vulnerable to the employment and pay cuts cascading through the world's economy. The pressure to come to work for fear of losing income is at the critical stage, though it can cause a health hazard for them and their family.
The coronavirus pandemic has slammed the brake on Indonesia’s online taxi industry. The online delivery and taxi driver are suffering a radical drop in ridership amid concerns over the widespread pandemic in Indonesia.
One of them is Leon. The online taxi driver from Jakarta complains, "I started my shift from 10 AM this morning, and you (referring to me as his passenger at that time) are my first passenger, at 2 PM." Some others only scraped together a small income after long shifts behind the wheel with minimal protective measures. "If it continues like this, I can't buy food supplies for my family. I'm happily off the street but I need to make sure my family is well-fed," he explained while fixing his protective mask. Social distancing and working from home become a luxury he couldn't afford amid the posing threat of coronavirus disease.
"My family would be fine, even with only eating plain rice,” he added.
There’s also Minda, who serves as a beautician in a local hair salon around the area. Even though local health officials haven't mandated any restrictions on hair salons to operate, her place of work no longer opens because of the lack of customers. Desperate looking for a way to make ends meet, she contacted all her old customers offering home care services.
“My husband is having difficulties getting a single passenger (his husband works as an online motorcycle taxi driver) and we have nothing left to eat if I don’t buy groceries today.” Her voice trembled with emotion as my sister talked to Minda over the phone.
The city of Jakarta has gone quiet as the government and people are advised to stay at home. The economy began to plummet as corporations and individuals are likely to hold off spending in this time, amid concerns over the virus. At the same time, economists are rapidly slashing their budgets for company earnings and economic growth.
Just like in other parts of the world, companies in Indonesia have unveiled assistance measures, including direct cash donations and emergency loans to families and small businesses most affected by the economic slowdown from the pandemic.
President Joko Widodo, on his official statement (24/03) will make sure the government provides various lead to facilitate small-medium businesses. This will include online taxi drivers or fishermen; especially for those involved with credit instalment for their businesses. Joko Widodo through The Indonesian Financial Services Authority (OJK ) decided payments or instalments would be giving ample leeway for the next 1 year on the amount.
Indonesia's current soft-lockdown situation has left many communities on a teetering boat as they try to balance between the pandemic. Bali, a hot spot for international tourists, has been struck hard by the coronavirus outbreak, with many tourists cancelling their trips to the retreat island. This affects the livelihoods of the people working in the region. A lot of people lost their daily income because tourism is their primary source of income.
The Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association, PHRI, reported the country's overall occupancy rate had fallen below the low season average of 50 - 60 % to 30 - 40% since the outbreak of the coronavirus in January.
In Bali, particularly in areas visited by travellers such as Kuta, Sanur, Legian, Ubud and Jimbaran, the occupancy rate of hotels has dropped to 20%. Some smaller hotels even have no visitor at all and chose to close down the establishment, or lay people off temporarily.
It has also impacted Non-Governmental Organisations, some run solely from the donation of the hotel visitors. Bali based NGOs, experiencing a downturn in monthly donations as the hospitality industry suffers.
One of the NGOs representatives confessed personally, they have to make a difficult decision to cut back on their daily food, basic necessities and healthcare supplies for people with disabilities they were helping for more than ten years in Bali.
Battered by Virus: Government and Business Across Indonesia
The Indonesian government allocated Rp120 trillion (US$8.1 billion) from the state budget to stimulate the economy by providing tax incentives and subsidies for workers, businesses and families affected by the situation.
To prevent turmoil, Indonesia Finance Minister Sri Mulyani will roll out a significant stimulus package comprising policies to strengthen the Indonesian economy in the following crisis situation. The Finance Minister explained that the government will first accelerate the disbursement of the social assistance budget, which includes the state-subsidized national health insurance (BPJS) that can be accessed through all ranges of public health care establishment.
“For the aid budget in February, March, and April, we will disburse Rp12 trillion,” said Sri Mulyani at the press conference held at the Finance Ministry Office in Jakarta last Wednesday (19/02), as quoted from Tempo.co.
Meanwhile, inadequate medical equipment still takes a massive strain on Indonesia's healthcare system, making it hard for medical workers to cater to the needs of the citizens. The only plausible thing to avoid the outbreak is to take good care of their own health and practice proper protective measures.
Medical teams across Indonesia are dealing with a great number of people infected with the disease. Their response capability is currently limited as the numbers of hospitals and staff are not in line with the growth of the COVID-19 case.
Pharmacies and the convenience stores around my area have already run out of hand sanitizer or personal protective equipment, and people are left with the online method to purchase the items. However, one comforting thing to see earlier today is, one fine gentleman who works as a grocery courier, still able to deliver food and groceries safely to my home—using protective gear and added measures on one's own initiative, and from one's own pocket.
The coronavirus outbreak is rapidly evolving. To stay informed, you may check https://www.covid19.go.id/ for Indonesia COVID-19 updates and hotline 119 ext 9. Both in Bahasa Indonesia. For Singapore COVID-19 update, visit Singapore Ministry of Health official page https://www.moh.gov.sg/covid-19, and for Malaysia COVID-19 update, visit Malaysia Ministry of Health official page http://www.moh.gov.my/index.php/pages/view/2019-ncov-wuhan. For the World Health Organization COVID-19 Situation Dashboard, visit https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/685d0ace521648f8a5beeeee1b9125cd
Photo by Zalfa Imani