The world is currently impacted by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The World Health Organisation (WHO) coordinates the global efforts to manage the impacts and it declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic on March 11, 2020 [1]. The scale of the impacts is unprecedented, and studies have suggested that it might take more than a decade for the world to recover, societally and economically [2] and might significantly compromise the progress of Sustainable Development Agenda (SDGs) 2030. On March 27th, the G20 countries pledged $5 trillion to defend the global economy against COVID-19 [3], while the United Nations (UN) launched the Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19 [2].

The pandemic started in the city of Wuhan, Hubei province, China and has brought many new challenges to public health in various countries. The world has experienced global public health crises in the last 20 years caused by novel virus infections, such as HIV, Influenza A virus subtype H1N1, Influenza A virus subtype H5N1, SARS-CoV1, MERS-CoV, and Ebola. However, the epidemiological novelty of COVID-19, which caused by a strain of coronavirus (the SARS-CoV2), revealed our lack of preparedness given its sudden and rapid spread that caught many governments around the world unprepared.

On March 26th, WHO issued six prioritised strategies, to be undertaken by governments to cope with the pandemic. The strategies were as follow: Expand, train and deploy health-care workers; Implement systems to find suspected cases; Ramp up production of tests and increase availability; Identify facilities that can be transformed into coronavirus health centres; Develop plans to quarantine cases; and Refocus government measures on suppressing the virus [1]. Lowering and delaying the epidemic peak is important. Uncontrolled measures will lead to the rapid increase in the number of cases, reach the peak earlier and require more capacity of healthcare systems to respond, while stringent control measures implemented early will help to lower the number of cases, delay reaching the peak and need considerably lower capacity of the healthcare systems [4].

Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world, and thus is predicted to suffer greatly and over a longer time period, when compared to other less-populous countries [5]. When the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV2 hit China most severely during the months of December 2019–February 2020, Indonesia reported no case of infection at all. Only on March 2, 2020, President Joko Widodo reported the first confirmed two cases of COVID-19 infection in Indonesia. As of April 2, the country has reached 1790 confirmed cases, 113 new cases, with 170 number of deaths, and 112 number of recoveries [6,7].

This paper is one of the first policy-response-focused academic publications aimed at providing a brief reporting, analysis and evaluation of current rapid responses to COVID-19 in Indonesia. To allow for rapid publication and dissemination of information, this paper does not intend to provide an exhaustive list of the responses, but it aims to capture current government-led responses in the middle of the crisis. This paper can be viewed as ‘real-time evaluation’ as it provides insights and lessons for all stakeholders to improve and adjust existing policy options mainly at national level from April 2020 till the end of the crisis. There are three objectives of this paper. First, to highlight key response strategies and actions in responding to COVID-19 emergencies in Indonesia. Second, to analyse the gaps and opportunities in these responses. Third, to put forward recommendations toward rapid, comprehensive and more systematic approaches in the short- and longer-term.

The methodology includes rapid analysis based on media content analysis including governments speeches and reports as well as observation of various social media platforms available from January to March 2020. We especially targeted online media contents from the website of, mass media as well as participant observations in social media platforms (e.g. Facebook postings from governments and relevant stakeholders). This paper is interdisciplinary in nature, with authors coming from various disciplines. This is a collaborative work following calls of co-authorships by the first author on March 26th, 2020. All authors are Indonesian scholars and experienced practitioners, with broad expertise on health/public health, basic biology, disaster governance, law, engineering, public policy, environmental science, culture and community advocacy, and risk communication. We aim to have a balanced analysis between those from natural and social scientists, focussing our analysis on the policy-relevant responses. Some authors are involved in response activities or providing government advice, both nationally and locally.

The structure of the paper is as follows. Section 1 provides context, rationale and aim of the paper. It briefly presents COVID-19 impacts to date (as of 31 March 2020). We present our report on the key health strategies taken by the National government in Section 2. We further analyse the role of different organisations in Section 3. We review the roles of key ministries at the national level, responses at the provincial and local government level, along with roles of other major organisations and those at the community level (Section 4). This is complemented with our analysis of these responses, focussing on the gaps and limitations. Finally, in Section 5, we outline the recommendations for improving current responses, grouped into health-related and wider recommendations.

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