Ahmad Rizky Mardhatillah Umar By: Ahmad Rizky Mardhatillah Umar
Doctoral Student, Political Sciences and International Studies
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23 May 2020 : Normalizing Deaths?

More and more people died of coronavirus or other diseases nowadays. In Indonesia, Brazil, United States, around the world. Our relatives, friends, someone who are connected to us. This is just something that, lately these days, happens everyday and considered as "normal". 

A couple of days ago, I did usual phone call with my family in Banjarmasin, Indonesia. My parent recalled a story - a family of a friend has just died only in matter of days. First the mother died; and one of the child followed, and then the father, who was a retired teacher and a friend of my parent. It was horrendous. I barely know about the family, but they were a teacher in my High School before retiring long time ago.

After that, a news reached my family that a cousin of my parents have also died. No clue if he was died of Coronavirus, but it was a shock. No funeral were organized. The funeral was conducted by only government official because they weren't sure if the death was due to coronavirus. I don't know if the death was put in statistics as the victim of coronavirus, but after all it was a shock. 

I am sure that every family in Indonesia now perceive death as something that occurred everyday. Didi Kempot and Glenn Fredly, two famous musicians, were died (not of coronavirus according to news). Muhammad Najikh, member of Muhammadiyah central board, were also died before. Everyday the COVID-19 response team launched the number of victim (including deaths) in press release and the number kept increasing. 

For us, Indonesians, death and disease have been part of our life. But still we are shocked with the way government responded to the coronavirus. Unsympathetic statements, violation of large-scale physical distancing, and tendencies to 'open the economy early' are still heard everyday. But it was also followed by increasing number of cases and deaths. Everyone is worried and even medical staffs are angry with the way government and some members of society (high-profile!) respond to coronavirus. 

My brother-in-law, who works as a nurse at a local hospital, keep telling the family that the number keeps increasing; and if the cases are growing the capacity of hospital to deal with non-coronavirus cases will be limited. But yet people are going outside as if no large-scale physical distancing is imposed. And this is Ramadan. Everyone goes to the mall and market to buy new clothes even though the government has said that no 'Id ritual will be conducted this year.

And yes, my community is very religious - people called the town as 'Mecca's Veranda. It creates some problems as to how to deal with the community gathering in Mosque. Fortunately, both Muhammadiyah and Nahdhatul Ulama (two biggest Muslim organizations in the country) have given guidelines for doing religious ceremony during Ramadan and 'Id at home. But many people won't listen to them. And there are some follies who gathered outside McD and other places, sparking outcry. 

Violations of large-scale physical distancing instruction and our failure to deal with coronavirus with appropriate policy measures will only cost us death and death everyday. Coronavirus won't give us terms of peace. If we don't protect the vulnerables in our society, none of us will do so. It means that we might need to normalize 'deaths' as a part of our daily life. Are we ready for that? I don't. And I am sure no one does. Our best and only hope now is our medical staffs, vaccine and public health researchers, and ourselves. To stay at home, protect the vulnerables, and give the way for medical staffs to do their job in hospital and health centres. 

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