WISE Happenings | March 2020

Published by Team WISE on

Cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) escalated significantly in March 2020 around the world, including Southeast Asia. Faced with this threat, WISE’s energies also turned towards supporting our WISE Family and their wider community. As each country has different needs, our responses in Indonesia, Singapore, and Cambodia also vary. Here is what we are doing in each country.

Indonesia: Increasing the preparedness of the community and healthcare system in Nagekeo

The first two cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Indonesia on 2 March, although it is suspected that the virus had been spreading undetected for weeks due to poor detection and testing. Since then, the number of officially confirmed cases has increased to 2,273 with 198 deaths (as of 5 April), although it should be noted that the country continues to have the lowest testing rate in the world.

National trend of confirmed cases, deaths and recoveries in Indonesia as of 5 April (Source: National Disaster Management Agency / Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana)

In Flores, Indonesia, where WISE staff Rosa and Ester are based, many people are at risk because people working, studying and living in other provinces and countries have been returning to the island following the outbreak. 243 people are under monitoring or surveillance because they have related symptoms, have travelled from affected areas, or been in contact with someone who has tested positive. No cases have been confirmed, partially because to-date only 38 samples have been sent to the laboratory for testing (as of 5 April).

Filling up the tank of the handwashing station set up at Aeramo Hospital (RSD Aeramo) 📷 Thresia Florensina Legu (28 Mar 2020) 

Unfortunately, Nagekeo regency, like many parts of Indonesia, have limited ability to deal with the outbreak. Therefore, WISE is working with Yayasan Sao Mere to support community prevention and supply Aeramo Hospital and the regency’s public health centres with personal protective equipment (PPE). We have already installed handwashing stations at Danga Market, the transportation terminal, and the hospital. Next, we plan to make masks for communities who are unable to stay at home to work. And meanwhile, the procurement team is working hard to buy the PPE required, some of which are already on their way to Nagekeo.

For more information and to support our COVID-19 response in Nagekeo, please visit our SimplyGiving appeal.

Singapore: Providing insights to encourage people to stay safe 

Singapore seemingly had the coronavirus situation under control… until early March when cases started rising, especially those with no known links to previous cases, and more clusters were identified (see figure below). Social distancing measures and travel restrictions got increasingly tighter as the month went on.

Daily number of new coronavirus cases as of 5 April 2020 (Source: Channel News Asia)

Fortunately for those of us in Singapore, the country’s healthcare capacity remains sufficient, and the government is taking measures to increase it. However, the government claims that many locally-transmitted coronavirus cases in Singapore had been caused by individuals who did not practice socially responsible behaviour. For example, the National University of Singapore reported that two students had breached their stay home notices.

Recognising that it is vital for residents to practice social distancing, wear masks and wash their hands in order to keep the situation under control, WISE will be launching a behaviour change survey, based on RANAS (risks, attitudes, norms, abilities, self-efficacy) model and the doer/non-doer approach. Results will be made public so that everyone can gain insights into how people can change their own behaviour or encourage others to do the same. Details to be announced very soon! Email us at covidsgsurvey@washinseasia.org, join t.me/covidsgsurvey, and look out for updates on Facebook and Instagram.

Cambodia: Hanging tight 

Official reports indicate that coronavirus is under control in Cambodia with no new cases reported in two days as of 6 April. However, the economic impacts on Cambodians have been a key concern, with garment factories suspending work, and the tourism sector hit, among others. In addition, Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand flocked back to the country as Thailand prepared to close its borders in the second half of March. Many Cambodians are now without an income.

As of now, we have not identified gaps in the communities we serve where we can provide support. WISE remains in close contact with our partners to monitor the situation. And the team is focusing work that can be done from home.

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