Jakarta, IndonesiaIn February, as the coronavirus victim count rose steadily in countries like Singapore, Japan, and South Korea, Indonesia maintained that there was not a single case within its borders. As the government steadfastly refused to instate social distancing, cancel events, or start mass testing, local communities started to feel differently.
“Our government kept telling us we don’t have it, we don’t have it here,” urban rights activist Dharma Diani recounted. “But I kept thinking, if it’s even there in Singapore, such a clean and modern city, how could it not be here in Jakarta?” said Diani, who lives in Aquarium Neighborhood, one of the densely packed low-income settlements clustered near the Jakarta’s northern coastline.
A veteran organizer, Diani