Omicron subvariant wave may peak in Indonesia in second to third week of July, says health minister


A vendor waits for customers along a street in Jakarta. Indonesia's expected peak next month would see about 17,400 daily new cases, said the health minister. - AFP

JAKARTA, June 27 (The Straits Times/ANN): Indonesia, which has reported an uptick in Covid-19 cases driven by the Omicron subvariants, may see the wave peak in the second to third week of July before it starts to flatten, said Health Minister Budi Sadikin.

His forecast is based on the experience of South Africa, the first to report the emergence of the subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, which saw its wave peak in 30 days.

Indonesia's expected peak next month would see about 17,400 daily new cases, based on an assumption that the number will be about 30 per cent of that during the peak of the original Omicron variant in the third week of February, when the daily new cases reached 58,000.

The seven-day average of the daily new cases rose 70 per cent to 1,688 on June 25, from 996 cases the previous week, according to government data.

The Omicron subvariants, which have proven more transmissible, have however not caused higher hospitalisation and death rates in Indonesia.

The seven-day average of Covid-19 patients treated in hospitals' intensive care units was 188 on June 25, compared to 189 a week earlier, health ministry data shows. For the death rate, it is now four deaths per day, down from six.

But still, the positivity rate - the proportion of those tested found to have been infected - has climbed to 3.8 per cent, from 3.4 per cent a week earlier.

Several provinces, including Jakarta and neighbouring Banten, have each recorded a positivity rate of above 5 per cent.

"We will maintain the existing health protocols standard, accelerate booster vaccines, conduct our third sero-surveillance in late June-early July," Budi said on Sunday (June 26).

Sero surveys provide estimates of population immunity due to past infection or vaccination.

Indonesia on May 18 lifted its mask mandate for outdoor activities for people except the elderly, those who are unvaccinated and those who have health conditions.

Masks must still be worn indoors, on public transportation, and in crowded outdoor spaces by all.

Some medical experts have urged the government to remain on guard against the virus.

Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI) last week called on the government to review its relaxed mask rule and reimpose mandatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for domestic travel amid recent rises in cases, Kompas.com reported, citing Dr Erlina Burhan, a member of IDI's central board.

Dr Tjandra Yoga Aditama, a professor of pulmonology and respiratory medicine at the University of Indonesia, agreed with IDI, stressing that the government should especially increase its testing, tracking and genomic sequencing surveillance.

Dr Pandu Riono, an epidemiologist involved in earlier government-commissioned sero-surveillance surveys, said that as long as the public has high immunity - helped by vaccine boosters - and health protocols are adhered to, the spread of the virus would be under control even though the subvariants are more transmissible.

"We need to stay vigilant as we are facing a virus that keeps evolving...we have to be ready to do normal activity with continued transmission risk... while the government continues to strengthen the public health system," Dr Pandu said on Monday.

"Indonesia has high immunity, but greater protection is needed as not all of the people have had vaccine boosters."

More than 85 per cent of Indonesia's population has antibodies against Covid-19, based on a government commissioned sero-surveillance survey conducted between October and December 2021. It found that Indonesians had developed antibodies from a combination of Covid-19 infections and vaccinations. - The Straits Times/ANN

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