COVID-19 Op-ed

Distancing in the Workplace: Will the “New Normal” Guidelines Actually Work in Indonesia?

Help spread the news!

Tareq Muhammad Aziz Elven and Alifa Salsabila
Tareq is a researcher at the Center for Constitution and Government Studies, Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Alifa is a Master Student in American Studies, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia

The Indonesian Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto has recently issued a new health protocol for workplaces to adapt with the COVID-19. The Ministerial Decree Number HK.01.07/MENKES/328/2020 emphasizes that businesses and offices are among the key risks to the COVID-19 transmission in Indonesia.

This decree was issued as a follow up on President Joko Widodo’s call for new normal scenario, which enables people to “coexist with the virus.”

It specifically details out how offices should operate during the large-scale social restriction (PSBB) by including measures such as one-meter distance of each worker in workplaces (The Jakarta Post, 2020).

Regrettably, many violations against pandemic policies were found during the PSBB, let alone business units. There are many non-essential industries continued its business as usual even after being restricted by the government (The Jakarta Post, 2020). Experts from various backgrounds conclude that the lack of systematic and stringent measures from the government in mitigating the pandemic is responsible for the worsen situation.

For instance, Karawang is one of the major industrial cities in Indonesia where violations are rampant (Tempo, 2020). Despite the PSBB that is in place since 6 May 2020, the local government continues to allow laborers to work in normal work hours and even longer as long as they are following the directed health protocol (Pasar Dana, 2020). Unfortunately, with the nature of workplaces in manufactories, these workplaces are highly risky to the COVID-19 transmission.

As reported by the World Health Organization (WHO, 2020), the symptoms of COVID-19 are varied, it can be either no symptoms (asymptomatic) or pre-symptomatic. In Surabaya, HM Sampoerna tobacco factory’s outbreak is reported due to workers who are not aware that they are infected. Began with two workers died of the COVID-19 on 14 April 2020, it has now reached more than 77 confirmed cases and it has turned Surabaya into a ‘black zone,’ as cases mount to over 3,000 on 3 June 2020 (The Jakarta Post, 2020).

Taylor (2019) explains that there are three essential elements in a pandemic: an infectious agent, a host, and environments. The COVID-19 itself is not the first pandemic the world has ever had to face. Prior to the COVID-19, the world had experienced the Plague, Spanish Influenza, MERS, SARS, and Ebola (Griffin and Denholm, 2020).

Yet, the governments and the people are relatively far from being reflective to learn and take lessons from all the previous pandemics that had happened inside or outside of their borders. Reflectively speaking, these previous pandemics should have prepared countries better in term of strategies and precautions to prevent and fight against the pandemic. With science and lessons grounding the consideration of the policies, every government needs to address the issue clearly and strictly.

Unfortunately, in the Indonesian context, the government has to admit that they had not taken the pandemic seriously during the early outbreak. Thus, rushing to another level of adjustment as in the “new normal,” will not shed any lights to what already is worsening in Indonesia.


Ahmad Fikri. Tempo. “Langgar PSBB Jabar, Izin Kegiatan 58 Industri Dicabut.” 20 May 2020. Retrieved from

Griffin, David and Denholm, Justin. “This isn’t the first global pandemic, and it won’t be the last. Here’s what we’ve learned from 4 others throughout history.” The Conversation. 17 April 2020. Retrieved from

Natasa Adelayanti. UGM News. “The New Normal Primary Prerequisite Health Infrastructure.” 27 May 2020. Retrieved from

Ronal. Pasar Dana. “Meski Ada PSBB, Bupati Karawang Izinkan Buruh Pabrik Tetap Bekerja.” 6 May 2020. Retrieved from

Taylor, Steven. The Psychology of Pandemics: Preparing for the Next Global Outbreak of Infectious Disease. New Castle, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016.

The Economist. “Getting back to work: What will be the new normal for offices?” 9 May 2020. Retrieved from

The Jakarta Post. “COVID-19: Surabaya turns into ‘black zone’ as cases mount.” 3 June 2020. Retrieved from

The Jakarta Post. “COVID-19: Health minister issues ‘new normal’ guidelines for workplaces.” 25 May 2020. Retrieved from

The Jakarta Post. “Indonesia to evaluate partial lockdown as companies, factories continue business as usual.” 21 April 2020. Retrieved from

World Health Organization. “Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report – 73.” 2 April 2020. Retrieved from

Help spread the news!