Former President SBY warns gov’t not to be ‘overconfident’ in handling coronavirus crisis

Former Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Photo: AFP
Former Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Photo: AFP

Former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), President Joko Widodo’s direct predecessor, is urging the government to take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously amid public criticism of belated response to the crisis.

In an open letter published yesterday on his official Facebook page, SBY wrote that he appreciates how the government recently stepped up its handling of the outbreak, while also reserving some notes on what could be improved.

“With honesty, I have to say that the government must correct and improve on the first steps they took [in handling the crisis]. Maybe, in the beginning, they were overconfident, underestimated [COVID-19], while some statements issued by officials, I believe, were misleading,” he wrote.

SBY was likely referring to Indonesia’s delayed admission that people were infected by the coronavirus in the country, despite experts from around the world saying zero infections in Indonesia was a statistical implausibility. Indonesia only reported its first COVID-19 cases on March 2, after previously claiming for weeks that prayers have shielded the country from the coronavirus.

“But all of that has passed. Positively, the government’s actions are getting real [by the day],” SBY added.

SBY, who is widely credited as being instrumental in Indonesia riding out the 2008 global economic crisis, says he understands that making huge decisions that would greatly impact the economy is difficult at this time, but warns that swift action must be taken by the government before it’s “too little, too late.”

Indonesia has so far stopped short of enforcing lockdowns anywhere in the country out of economic concerns, though it has been heavily encouraging social distancing as the domestic COVID-19 caseload spiked over the past two weeks.

According to Health Ministry data, as of this morning, Indonesia has 172 confirmed domestic COVID-19 cases, with nine recoveries and seven deaths. Indonesia has performed tests for the coronavirus on at least 1,255 suspected patients, 1,083 of whom tested negative.

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