What started as an isolated virus a few short months ago has now spread to nearly 90 countries around the world. It’s in the news every day. You can’t escape it, even if you wanted to. Everywhere you look, there’s an article, video, or some sort of reminder that Coronavirus has made itself known. There’s a lot of fear-mongering and panic-inducing information being circulated about the virus and its impact, and it’s hard to know what to believe anymore.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m an expat who has been living in Jakarta, Indonesia for nearly three years. When news of the Coronavirus broke, I wasn’t worried. When it continued to spread, the number of confirmed cases and death toll rising, I knew it would eventually reach us. For one thing, we are in Asia, but more importantly, Bali is a huge tourist spot, drawing millions of travelers a year. Someone with the virus was bound to come here, infecting others. The weeks and months passed, and while every country around us had it, Indonesia had still not confirmed any cases. The country’s top health official said that it wasn’t here because the country was praying. We all knew it was just a matter of time.
When news broke on Monday that Indonesia had their first 2 confirmed cases, we all knowingly nodded, wondering what took it so long to be confirmed. What started as a mild concern that it was here quickly turned into anxiety, as a colleague of mine was hospitalized and put into isolation for suspected Coronavirus. That night we decided to close the school for a 14-day period as a precautionary measure and have been teaching online ever since.
When will they run the test to see if they have it? When will we get the results? What happens if it’s positive? Who needs to self-quarantine? These and more questions filled all of our heads, but the answers were illusive. What might make sense in other countries in terms of protocol usually doesn’t happen here. There’s a lot of ambiguity and conflicting information out there, and rumors run rampant. I never know what to believe.
Initially we were told that the test results would be known in 48 hours, but when Wednesday passed, we were left wondering and in the dark. On Thursday we learned that we wouldn’t be receiving the results first so that we could draft communication to be sent to our community. In fact, the patient wouldn’t even receive the results of their test until it was announced in a public press conference outside of the hospital where all of the suspected cases are being held in isolation. I’ve never heard of this in my life. The patient can’t even know first?!?!
Thursday came and went without a result. Friday morning we were told the announcement would come at 1:00pm. I’m sure you’ve guessed it by now, but no press conference was held then either. It wasn’t until this evening that a press conference was held where they announced that Indonesia has 2 more confirmed cases, both Indonesian citizens. The other suspected cases were not confirmed but they weren’t negative either. They were kept at ‘suspected’ status, so no real answers.
Meanwhile, our entire school community will remain in self-quarantine for the remainder of the 14-day period, which means 10 more days stuck at home. Not being able to leave your home is okay for the first couple of days, but it quickly begins to wear on you. I think the things I miss the most are social interaction and being active. Despite being in constant contact with people all day while teaching online, it’s isolating. It’s a strange concept. Interacting with others should appease the desire for connection, but communication through a screen isn’t real connection. I’ll be very glad when this is all over.
The xenophobia is real here, as I know it is in other places. Prior to Indonesia confirming any cases of Coronavirus, local newspapers speculated that in order to avoid catching the virus, one needed to refrain from eating Chinese food and watching Chinese TV shows. It also said that you could get it from “breathing the breath of a Chinese Indonesian.” The ignorance and hate toward people of a particular nationality is sickening.
Much like the information coming out of other countries in similar situations, with the Coronavirus fear setting in, Jakarta has experienced some empty shelves and price gouging. I haven’t personally experienced it since I’m in quarantine, but friends have reported extremely long lines and shortages of particular items in the stores. The obvious one is masks. There are next to none to be found in the city, not that I’d want one anyway, but people are panicking and stocking up. The strange one I find is a shortage of onions and garlic. When you do find onions, the price is ridiculous. The normal price is around $2.00/kg, but due to the shortage and demand, the price, if you can even find them, is between $8.00-$10.00/kg! For onions!
I’m so disgusted by the price gouging I’ve seen. Today in our group chat, when we asked everyone to take their temperatures to make sure they were healthy, a few teachers mentioned that they didn’t have a thermometer. One teacher shared that she had just bought a digital one online and had it delivered the other day, and the price was 100,000 Rupiah (about $8.00). She looked up the link to send to the chat only to find that the same thermometer she bought on Tuesday is now 2,000,000 Rupiah (about $160)!! Insanity! People who take advantage of people who are ill make me sick to my stomach.
Are you dealing with Coronavirus in your community? What’s your perspective?