Key to being at Peace with Coronavirus

For more than three months, we have been struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic. The peak of the infection and death curves have not yet been visible.

The broader sector of our lives is affected badly. We are increasingly forced to survive until one day a vaccine and medicine are found. We are forced to increasingly accept the presence of this virus as a reality, although it is very dangerous.

This is the “order” of the new world because of COVID-19. The fields of health, the economy, social relations, political processes and work culture all change and reformat the rules of the game. The new format can be long-term, even permanent. Because, it is estimated, this coronavirus will not be destroyed at all. Its ability to spread, mutate, and adapt to it new host is very quick. The coronavirus continues to mutate to maintain its life, while humans must also survive with their immune system, which is basically very sophisticated. Therefore, a kind of invitation arises that we begin to get used to living with the coronavirus, the invisible “cunning and cruel parasite”.

President Joko Widodo also echoed that we “make peace” with the coronavirus. The critics might say, “What is the use of making peace now, when three months ago the President launched a ‘war’?”The perception has emerged that the President is unable to overcome the coronavirus outbreak and therefore has begun to surrender, calling for “peace”. Meanwhile, those who agree with him might see the President’s invitation as an encouragement to adjust together. The invitation to “make peace” is interpreted in a way that calls for us to accept the reality of the coronavirus, while still trying to overcome it, moving on with life and developing the country.

Inevitably we do have to adjust and, thankfully, this endeavor is greatly helped by digital information technology (IT). Amid limitations of movement, we are increasingly familiar with e-meetings, e-shopping, e-lecturing, e-schooling, e-teaching, e-medicine, e-health, e-doctoring, e-mentoring, e-tutorials, e-friendship, e-greetings, e-sungkeman, and others. Home again becomes the center of the world. From there, all family members are connected to the outside world. Indeed, experiencing and feeling the direct touch in work and activities in real interactions has many advantages, but at least our world does not stop thanks to IT.

TI is also the backbone of the mitigation for COVID-19. What is prominent is the use of digital biometrics. Digital biometric systems spread and are very dominant in all sectors of life, as seen in South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and China, as well as in Europe and the United States. In the health response sector, residents who come to health services or are visited by health workers are inseparable from the internet connection and application system. With this process, biometric data will be collected massively or with basic individual health information that can be digitally connected. From here, it is very easy to track and map the whereabouts of patients accurately.

Sensor devices and algorithmic systems are also predominantly used for interaction media, both in the order of supervision, evaluation, communication and health promotion. The doctor’s job to examine the patient’s face to determine whether the patient is sick or healthy can now be taken over by a camera with the ability to recognize faces, body temperature, blood pressure and pulse rate, etc., depending on the needs. With IT technology tools, it becomes easier to determine the patient’s condition, identify the suspected coronavirus carrier, track their journey and identify anyone associated with them in a certain time span. Digital analysis can be used to warn residents about the dangers of being close to patients infected with the coronavirus.

Now, the use of biometric bracelets is increasingly common. With this bracelet, the body temperature and heart rate of the wearer can be known at any time and the data can be saved immediately and then analyzed by the algorithm engine. The initial handling of coronavirus patients is greatly helped by the support of this intelligent machine algorithm. Likewise, IT has helped to map the latest developments of patients in each region with more detail and accuracy, which in turn will help efforts to overcome its spread and treatment. On the other hand, the progress of IT cannot only be used by the government to control its citizens.


But, conversely, citizens can also use it to control their government. Citizens can create applications that collect data on positive patients, people being monitored (ODP), people suspected of having tested positive for the virus under supervision (PDP), the number of verified coronavirus deaths, the number of burials with coronavirus protocols that have not been reported by the government, control the distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) and map its scarcity, and so on. Thus, citizens can ask the government to provide honest reports by presenting credible citizen reports.


Strengthening the hybrid system

The development of IT is clearly very helpful in mitigating a pandemic. But, the use of IT cannot be directly applied to the conditions of people who are still not advanced. Forcing the use of IT for all sectors in a community that is not ready mentally and culturally will even lead to complexity in the field.

Asking citizens to choose between their personal interests and the interests of maintaining public health together is not a wise and effective solution. In a society where the cultural order is not yet advanced enough, if given the choice above, surely more people would choose to protect their personal interests. Their ego is bigger than their awareness to maintain public health together. Asking people to line up in an orderly manner by keeping a distance is easy in a developed country like Japan.

However, it will be difficult to apply in Indonesia. The queues to get staple food often become crowded and chaotic. It seems we are still too hungry to be orderly. Therefore, this coronavirus outbreak can simultaneously be used as a foothold that, in the face of this changing order, requires us to change to be more disciplined, leave behind the ego, and put the common interests at the front.

Likewise, in terms of using IT advancement to deal with the outbreak. South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore can be a reference. Governments in these countries use IT advances proportionally, for example with applications that track patient movement. Such applications could be used fully and massively, thereby minimizing the role of medical personnel so that their energy can be directed toward absolute treatment requiring direct attention for patients. However, to maintain a more humane atmosphere, the governments there chose to use a hybrid system: with advanced IT technology, but also still using manual testing, reporting done by honest medical personnel and collaboration with volunteers from various parties, as well as in a well-decentralized way.

The governments do not apply a rigid centralized monitoring and supervision model with strong sanctions. In a society whose culture is advanced and with values of compliance and discipline, citizen participation can be more seamlessly applied. Not with the model of order in an authoritarian way and police threats.


A combination of immunity, faith

Therefore, in the face of a new world order and making peace with COVID-19, citizens should be inundated with knowledge about the intricacies of this virus and various ways of handling it in a way makes it so that the body’s immune system is always the winner. In this way, residents are expected to have enough knowledge and understanding so that they can build a culture of discipline and a healthy lifestyle, which will be very useful for survival in the midst of the epidemic. Residents are positioned as subjects of change, not merely pandemic victims.

Thus, they will be able to maintain their immune system in a prime way, including their ability to supervise, defend, destroy and damage opponents such as COVID-19. It is very possible for the sophistication of this immune system to win because of the presence of skin, mucosal immunity, lysosomes, phagocytes, immunoglobulins, cellular immunity, complement and interferon. That is our body’s immune in general, which is very sophisticated.

In Indonesia, we see that the creativity of the government or community initiatives in the campaign to overcome COVID-19 has been grounded, including using the strength of character or local figures with unique everyday language; for example, diverse recommendations not to partake in mudik (exodus) travels to protect residents in each region. In the aforementioned developed countries, washing hands with soap has become a habit and part of a healthy lifestyle.

However, for developing countries, especially backward countries, inviting people to always wash their hands with soap is not easy. In fact, even though it seems trivial, this is a method of prevention of transmission that has proven to be effective. This seemingly simple action could save millions of citizens from a coronavirus infection. And, in Indonesia, there is already a growing awareness of washing hands with soap, although constant reminders are still necessary.

So, facing the new world order and “being at peace” with the coronavirus is not an attitude of defeatism. But, it is an anticipatory attitude with awareness to accept reality and a willingness to adjust to changing situations in order to stay alive and continue working. Let’s face this new order with optimism and endeavor to be close to God. Optimism can increase our immune power, while being close to God will increase our faith. Immunity and faith; this is a formidable combination of the physical world and spirituality in dealing with COVID-19.


Djoko Santoso, Professor of Internal Medicine, Medical School of Airlangga University.



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