Little Covid-19 protection for disaster victims

Severe damage: Indonesian president Joko Widodo (second from right) talking to an official as he inspects an earthquake-damaged government building in Mamuju, West Sulawesi. — AP

THE National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) is pushing for Covid-19 safety compliance during disaster response and among people taking shelter following a string of fatal disasters that struck several regions across the archipelago over the last two weeks.

Agency spokesperson Raditya said on Sunday that health protocols would continue to be enforced amid the ongoing emergency in the wake of earthquakes in West Sulawesi, major flooding in South Kalimantan and deadly landslides in West Java.

He said a joint team comprising his office, the Health Ministry and local health agencies had committed to providing the provisions and amenities required to maintain health and safety among evacuees.

Evacuees, divided into separate age groups to prevent viral contagion, had been ordered to keep wearing masks in shelters, he said.

Swab antigen tests would also soon be provided to all evacuees to ensure proper handling of potential Covid-19 patients, he added.

“Shelters will be concentrated in two locations (in each disaster-hit region), ” Raditya said. “Access to the shelters will be limited.”

The country has been tackling the aftermaths of at least three major natural disasters in recent weeks.

At least 56 people died, 826 others were injured and 15,000 displaced following two quakes that hit West Sulawesi last week, said the BNPB.

Reports of residents fleeing their homes without protective health gear during the tremors previously raised concerns over violations of health protocols imposed to curb Covid-19 transmission in the region.

Mamuju resident Agung Massagoni claimed on Friday that dozens of the evacuees had yet to receive aid from the government.

He said the lack of masks and tents had made it difficult for evacuees to remain compliant with the prevailing health protocols.

Raditya said the government was distributing aid packages to Majene and Mamuju, which included at least eight isolation tents, 10 evacuation tents, 500,000 cloth masks, over 2,000 packages of food supplies, 700 blankets and 30 electric generators.

University of Indonesia epidemiologist Pandu Riono said the current evacuation efforts served as a model of disaster mitigation during a public health crisis.

“Going forward, disaster mitigation will only become more complicated. The implementation of health protocols should be a priority, ” he said. — The Jakarta Post/ANN

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