Pandemic Diary: Can Traveling Get Me Covid-19?

As people are headed to holiday season this end of October, they are lured into traveling outside their homes. This especially holds true in Indonesia where lockdown policy is never applied seriously and only half-heartedly due to the economic reason.

But families in Indonesia are known to be really stubborn. They are very close and can never stand living faraway from each other. This is why the pandemic will last to no end here.

I myself have traveled quite often in mass transit modes. The trip is only an hour and 45 minutes. What makes it even more challenging is that the coaches of the train I usually take is of course heavily air conditioned and thus has less air circulation than non-air-conditioned rooms.

Traveling may never be that dangerous (making you prone to getting caught by Covid-19) as long as you can manage to wear a 3-ply surgical mask all the time and wear it properly. And then of course, you must stay away from other passengers while in the cabin or train coach. Physical distancing is a must here.

The risk of getting infected in a mass transit modes can be minimized so long as we can stay silent throughout the trip to minimize the risk of spreading any droplets, which are the potential carriers of the virus.

But what is of greater concern is the fact that most of us travel not only for the sake of traveling but also attending some indoor get-together or assembly or event which is of course highly risky. This can trigger a very massive viral infection. (*/)

Pandemic Diary: Enlightenment from the Radio

This is 2020.

But radio to me is just as miraculous as it was in 1920-s. Seriously, because I’m no TV person. I hate TV and the reason why I loathe it is because I’ve been working all day long with screens. My smartphone, and my laptop.

Therefore, I make a pledge to myself that I won’t torture my eyes even longer staring at a blue screen during my spare time.

Radio is my choice of media to obtain information from. And when I tell people that I’m voluntarily listening to the radio in 2020, they sneer. They look down on me, thinking: “What are you, old soul?”

These days, the radio is a channel of information for drivers. I mean this. The one and only group of people that I usually catch in the act of listening to the radio while working is taxi drivers. The radio tells them what happens with the world and most importantly the traffic around the route they perhaps are about to take.

Though I’m no driver (I have left that driving license unrenewed for years), I still loyally listen to the radio.

I thank God for the integration of radio chip into my Samsung Android phone because this is so useful and helpful. The radio helps me kill the time when I want to save my data plan for more ‘serious’ purposes (a.k.a work). For leisure listening, generation Z and millennials might go for Spotify or any other smaller and less popular music streaming applications but I consider them ‘unnecessary purchase’. The radio on my phone can give me a totally free access to information and music without having to let it suck my data plan up in the process.

While you might think I should use wifi connection to use Spotify, I think I wouldn’t agree on this idea because my home is only an hour train trip from Jakarta and unfortunately the wifi network isn’t there just yet. It sucks to be me, I know.

So to cut the story brief, I really enjoy this radio broadcast and some stations. A favorite station that I regard as a trustworthy news source because it’s been in the air for quite some time broadcasts this program from Japan’s NHK.

Japan, like Indonesia, is also hit badly by the coronavirus. And the radio program in May 2020 was full of pandemic updates. NHK allows listeners to send their questions and answer them publicly so the misunderstanding and doubt can be dispelled once and for all.

The program aired at night just before my bedtime told us that it is important that we wash our hands often as soap can destroy lipid membrane of coronavirus and other pathogenic microbes.

Another question was intriguing: “Can dogs be infected by coronavirus?” People got curious over time as news of dogs in Hongkong infected by the virus from their human owners.

“Yes, it is true that Hongkong Government confirmed that two dogs are tested positive for Covid-19. The owners are different people but both are Covid-19 patients. But what is interesting is that neither of the infected dogs showed any signs or symptoms!”

The rumor that pets like dogs can be a vector of coronavirus is then busted. There’s no scientific evidence of this, the anchor said. I have no dogs, but I was relieved on hearing this.

So what do these pet owners have to do with their canine kids? The anchor firmly advises that they wash their dogs regularly with shampoo and make sure that no canine bodily liquid lands on their body. Silly, I think. So should you wear a hazard material robe to protect yourself while bathing your dog? Or is a raincoat enough for this purpose? No one can answer. (*/)

Pandemic Diary: What Do Covid-19 Patients Do in Isolation?

Covid-19 patients are isolated for weeks. Most of them get treated for two weeks at hospital. And for these weeks, what do they do? Isn’t it boring to stay in bed and indoors for that long?

So I heard this account from Izak Latu (Universitas Kristen Satywacana Salatiga lecturer), an ex Covid-19 patient aired on the local radio in Jakarta, and he told us how he recovered from Covid-19 during the weeks.

He likes swimming and this, he claims, partly saved his life. Because swimming strengthens lungs and this makes his recovery smoother.

As he was being hospitalized and isolated, he had not much room to exercise and therefore simply move his body to simulate the swimming movements. I should say this is very creative as he only used whatever worked for him.

Post recovery, he chooses to do some simple exercises and basking under the morning sun. He prefers walking as covid-19 attacks lungs and it’s almost impossible to do very intense workouts right after the recovery.

Speaking of mental support from others in the neighborhood and professional circles, he mentioned that some neighbors and colleagues sent him messages of encouragement via WhatsApp.

“Their support makes me happy and build positivity in my psyche. On the contrary, lack of such support and encouragement may partly kill Covid-19 patients. These patients who are especially in critical condition after catching the virus may be thinking negatively. Will people around them accept their dead body after their death – if they finally have to die of the virus? Will they recover and be accepted by the neighbors ever again?” (*/)

Pandemic Diary – 2

Bored and tired…

It is Sunday morning. It should be fun but I don’t think it is.

Everyone in the train seems to agree with me on this point. They are all men. Young, able-bodied males. There are enough seats for all. So we are all relieved.

To be a young male in this commuter line is such a disadvantage. You are destined to be a public enemy if you sit and take a nap while an older man or woman or pregnant woman or seemingly fragile person is around you, in the same coach.

Officers see you as insensitive and immoral bastards to be humiliated, by tapping your knee or thigh repeatedly to make sure that you are awake and conscious enough to stand up and leave the seat for someone in need.

“Hey, wake up! Let her sit down,” an officer pats his knees. Hard.

“I am sorry but can’t you see I am pregnant. Can’t stand standing up too long…,” she pleads.

He succumbs. He relinquished his hard-earned seat. Poor young lad, I mumble.

The young man is so tired after pulling an all nighter. He works as a waiter at a fast food restaurant in Central Jakarta but now that Covid-19 hits the entire nation hard and badly, he had to prolong his working hours to achieve the target.

The daily target is 20 orders. They cannot shut the operation that day until the restaurant can reach the number.

“You can sleep here tonight,” says the employer and restaurant owner in a light tone. Deep down inside, the employer is worried today is their last day. But he convinced that if the employees are willing to struggle together with him, they can still work and survive the pandemic. But you all gotta work harder in these trying times, he convinced them.

These waiters and cook can sleep on the desks while the restaurant is closed. That way, they won’t be awakened by rats or cockroaches and therefore, they can stay healthy. Please don’t get sick or get infected by the virus, the owner says again and again. Your health is your wealth, he emphasized, especially for marginalized, poverty stricken folks like he himself.

Please don’t jump.

But now he is too tired. Even to say that he was sleepless last night.

He bends his knees and squats. Curling up and letting his face sink between his thighs.

The officer shouts at him:”Don’t squat!!! Stand up!!!”

Out of nowhere, he manages to gather this incredible amount of bravery: “Screw you all!!”

And he punches the window till it breaks in to pieces and smashes his body towards the glass door.

But he is too powerless. He is too minute.

He is lying there on the floor but no one dared to touch.

They are to observe the physical distancing rule. Stay away from each other until God-knows-when.

He has never been seen again lately.

I never see him and his fake star wars hoodie jacket.

Maybe he is working somewhere else. Maybe he doesn’t think it is all worth it.

He perhaps think it is better just to stay at home and rot.

Pandemic Diary

It’s October, which means it’s been eight solid months since the first time Covid-19 landed in Indonesia. But still I can’t see it decline anytime soon.

A friend of mine asked me naively: “When will you think it’s over? This December?”

I laughed it off. Not that I’m pessismistic but I’m realistic and more fact-based.

Indonesians are known for their laid-back attitude, hospitality and kindness. But when it comes to discipline and adaptability to abrupt changes, we as a people have to struggle a lot. We suck at these aspects.

It’s no doubt the main factors that hold ourselves back from getting out of this pandemic sooner.

I looked back at May. That was exactly when European countries had just passed their peak. Italy lost so many lives. But Indonesia’s Covid-19 positive cases kept climbing up, no sign of stopping or slowing down.

Some institutions tried to predict the end of the pandemic. They define the peak of pandemic occurs when the curve is flattened and the sign of slowing down, the declining number of new positive cases.

So how about the peak of pandemic in Indonesia?

Kompas ridiculously predicted that Indonesia would reach the peak by May 2020. Some other predicted June or July 2020. The optimism was because ‘mudik’ (annual trips taken before and after Ied el Fitr) was completely forbidden by the government to curb the spread. The peak itself spans usually quite a long time: 10-20 days.

Even the assigned COVID-19 National Task Force (Gugus Tugas Percepatan Penanganan COVID-19) of the government has completely and shamefully failed to predict. They stupidly forecast that the peak of pandemic in Indonesia was May 2020. And it’d end in June 2020, with 95,000 positive cases. Wow!

Now we all know for sure that those are just wishful thoughts. Fairytales to keep our hope high.
Even a Singaporean institute was wrong. They released a statement claiming that the end of pandemic would be the first week of September 2020. That would probably true in Singapore, where citizens are more educated and more easily disciplined and the government has less barrier to go against but in Indonesia it’s another story.

Indonesians, as I told you before, are never that disciplined. We may be told but it takes more than just reading to internalize the messages that the coronavirus is real and lethal to some people.

Had Covid-19 been more lethal, would they have been more disciplined and obedient? Time will tell.

But for the time being, the pandemic in Indonesia has kept going unabated. Jakarta government has applied some transitional large-scale social restrictions but it is on and off, showing there’s a tugs of war between two major parties: the pro-health and pro-economy party.

Can both go hand in hand? I’m not sure about that. We have to prioritize health and then economy comes later.

Things even go more complex when the tugs of war is joined by the pro-religion party, claiming that religious matters should come first before economic and health affairs. “Why does the government allow people to go shopping while going to mosque on Friday (which is compulsory) is absolutely forbidden?”

Indonesians are also known for their knack for avoiding rules so skillfully. They can devise various unthinkable plans to escape the lockdown. Some of them are born rebels and bravely show their stance in public. While some were locked down in Jakarta, these rebels found ways to escape the capital and managed to go home, risking to put themselves and their family members into contracting the virus. They even rented an ambulance just to deceive state apparatus. But once caught, they were sent back home in Jakarta. But again, who could guarantee?

The government launched a movement to empower people in villages to isolate visitors coming to their villages but these people were untrained and no health experts and had no authority whatsoever to make others stay in complete isolation for 2 weeks. (*/)

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