Sentul Meeting: My First Travel in COVID-19 Situation

I noticed two extremes in how my acquaintances respond to COVID-19 stay at home notice. At one end, those who stay at home as much as possible like there is zombie apocalypse. At the other end, those who think that social distancing is nonsense and COVID-19 is a conspiracy. This story is for those who goes toward the first end, to show you what is going on outside.

Me and my team helped the Ministry of Education developing a simple mobile app for their World School Debating Championship 2017 event, as well as the 2018 Festival & Lomba Seni Siswa Nasional (FLS2N, or the National Art Festival and Competition for Students) online competition portal. The 2018 project was a complex and challenging one, as some provinces decided to use the classic on-site competition while other provinces decided to go online. 2020, COVID-19 came and everybody must go online. Long story short, our team was invited to Sentul, Bogor, for meeting with the committee and judges, to prepare for the part of the FLS2N and debating (LDBI & NSDC, Lomba Debat Bahasa Indonesia & National School Debating Championship) 2020 full-online competition.

My team member refused to go due to fear of COVID-19, so I as the team leader, had to go alone (I kind of miss those day when I was not a leader and can throw responsibilities to my boss). My wife was also worried and upon returning I would not be allowed to go to office before 14 days, but well, the show must go on.

I started driving to Sentul around 8 AM, and the traffic was very clear, comparable to those at 2019 Lebaran time (where most of people are outside the capital city), so that was one benefit of the stay at home policy. I arrived Sentul at 10.30, 1.5 hours earlier than schedule of registration at hotel. I spent my time at Starbucks to reply to e-mails and video call with my team. I chose Starbucks since it has the lowest risk to contract the virus, compared to other places like Dominos, KFC, or a bakmi (noodle) restaurant.

Starbucks has a pretty good policy towards COVID-19 prevention. Markers on the floor helped people who queue to keep a distance one another, all customers were scanned for fever and required to wear mask. I brought my own tumbler, and asked to put my tumbler in a plastic bag that the staff held, in a way that the staff would never have to touch my tumbler at all during the process. This ensured germs or virus from one customer does not contract to the next customer.

At 1 PM, I arrived at the hotel and registered. As I traveled alone, the staff said that I will be assigned a roommate. At this point I realized that to achieve global survival from COVID-19, people must work together. If my roommate was the conspiracy theorist like I said earlier (unfortunately he was not), I would have a much higher risk of contracted with COVID-19 even though I follow all hygiene and social distancing recommendations).

From the hotel itself, they have implemented various measures to limit spread of the virus. Mask and plastic gloves are compulsory while you are inside the restaurant, and guests are not allowed to take their food by themselves (yes, including to prevent those guests who pick the food to their plate, then change their mind and return the food to the tray). Guests are also not recommended to use the swimming pool (which some of them did, anyway). When I entered my room, the blind was largely opened, allowing sunlight to pass through at maximum level. When I closed it that evening (I don’t want to see ghosts at night), they reopened the blind next day.

As for the meeting itself, COVID-19 briefing is held at the first night. My roommate complained that it was a waste of time, but the organizer told me that such briefing is compulsory for holding the on-site meeting. During the meeting, it is not possible to 100% perform social distancing. At one time people have to open their mask and speak close to the partner for a secondary discussion. Other time, you have to lend your smartphone to your partner to show an image stored in your phone. After all, the goal of having on-site meeting is to overcome the difficulties in discussions due to social distance.

There is not much story to tell other than those, since the meeting was held for two nights only. One thing for sure, when I returned home, I decided to isolate myself from my family, to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

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