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Terawan must go, Indonesia civil groups say, demanding crisis-sensitive health minister

The Jakarta Post Tue, March 17, 2020

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (‘left’) and Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto announce the country’s first two COVID-19 patients in Jakarta on March 2. (Antara/Sigid Kurniawan)

JAKARTA, Indonesia  – A coalition of civil society organizations has urged President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to dismiss Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto from his position due to an “absence of sensitive, responsive and effective leadership” in handing the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.

Among the coalition’s members are human rights watchdogs KontraS, the Lokataru Foundation, the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI), Amnesty International Indonesia, the Indonesian Consumers Foundation (YLKI), labor rights advocacy group Migrant Care and the Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association (PKBI).

“Terawan has been showing an arrogant and anti-science attitude by playing down the issue since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. This has resulted in the loss of vigilance among people,” the coalition wrote in a statement released on Tuesday.

“We urge President Jokowi to replace the Health Minister with a figure who understands public health, has sensitivity to crises and will guide us through the worst health crisis,” the coalition said.

Although Terawan’s statements might aim to allay public fears, Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) microbiology researcher Sugiyono Saputra said separately that people had the right to obtain science-based information rather than hasty statements, so they could exercise the proper caution.

The coalition highlighted several concerns regarding the health minister’s management of the outbreak, including his decision to prioritize budget efficiency in obtaining lab tests to detect COVID-19.

“Terawan said that a recovered COVID-19 patient would be immune to the virus, while other countries’ experiences show otherwise,” the statement added.

Terawan was criticized for his coordination of hospitals to address the outbreak as he had failed to ensure the availability of finances and equipment for them. He was also criticized for failing to maintain the quality of health workers, administrative staff and data centers in hospitals.

The coalition accused Terawan of monopolizing coronavirus swab tests in the ministry’s Health Research and Development Agency (Balitbangkes) in Jakarta. The policy, they said, had slowed down health authorities’ response to the COVID-19 emergency.

The coalition pointed out that Terawan had held a public event on Monday showcasing the recovered patients, which was contrary with the government’s social distancing measures.

“The risks faced by Indonesia at the moment cannot be handled without a health minister who understands public health policies,” the coalition wrote. “How will the hospital work seriously if the minister himself thinks that COVID-19 is the same as the common cold?” (aly)

From: THE JAKARTA POST, INDONESIA Tue, March 17, 2020

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