Indonesian Officials Praise Anti-COVID Efforts for Sharp Drop in Active Cases

Ronna Nirmala
Jakarta
2021-10-26
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Indonesian Officials Praise Anti-COVID Efforts for Sharp Drop in Active Cases A man hauls a delivery to a market in Jakarta as economic activities resume and Indonesia sees a massive drop in COVID-19 cases, Oct. 15, 2021.
AFP

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Indonesia has dropped to less than 13,000 – far below the global average – only two months after Southeast Asia’s largest country ranked among the world’s most pandemic-affected countries.

Vaccination drives and movement restrictions helped bring about the rapid amelioration in the active caseload, according to the country’s coronavirus task force – but some officials still are voicing fears about a possible third wave later this year.

“We should be grateful that thanks to the consistent efforts and cooperation of all parties, the spike in COVID-19 has been under control,” Sonny Harry Budiutomo Harmadi, a spokesman for the government’s COVID-19 Task Force, told reporters.

“Active cases in Indonesia have reached 0.35 percent, and that’s lower than the percentage of active cases in the world,” he said.

Indonesia, home to 270 million people, has recorded more than 4.2 million coronavirus infections and more than 143,000 deaths since the outbreak began here last year. On Tuesday, the health ministry reported only 12,989 active cases.

By contrast, the United States, home to about 330 million, has recorded 46.4 million infections and has nearly 9.4 million active cases.

Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, the Philippines has recorded 2.76 million infections and 53,642 active cases; Malaysia has recorded 2.4 million infections and has 73,258 active cases; and Thailand has recorded 1.86 million infections and has 98,150 active cases, according to the statistics website Worldometer.

Health officials credited the decline in active cases to vaccinations and mobility restrictions, combined with effective cooperation between the central and local governments. Indonesia has gradually reopened economic sectors, beginning in September.

The highly infectious Delta variant struck the nation between June and August, causing a near collapse of the hospital system in Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country. On July 15, Indonesia recorded 56,757 new infections during the previous 24 hours, compared with only 611 on Tuesday.

“However, it must be realized that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet and we should not let our guard down and ignore health protocols,” Sonny said.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is warning that Indonesia be vigilant about a possible next wave in December as millions travel for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, Luhut Pandjaitan, the official who leads the government’s efforts to control the pandemic, said Monday.

“We’re seeing numbers up and down and we must be on alert. We will take many measures – people will say that they are too restrictive but we have no other choice,” he said.

During a speech Tuesday at the annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Jokowi stressed the importance of strengthening the regional health architecture to overcome future pandemics.

“The ASEAN region should become a regional hub for the production of medical devices, diagnostics, medicines and vaccines. This is to ensure the supply of the needs of ASEAN countries in the event of a public health emergency,” the Indonesian president said.

A day earlier, he called for the immediate implementation of an ASEAN Travel Corridor Arrangement proposed by Indonesia last year, noting that the region imposed some of the world’s toughest restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19. 

“ASEAN economic recovery must be accelerated by reactivating travel, including safe tourism,” Jokowi told a business forum. “With the COVID-19 situation increasingly under control, mobility restrictions can be relaxed.”

Indonesia reopened Bali and Riau Islands – two provinces frequented by foreign tourists – to visitors from 19 countries on Oct. 14. Fellow ASEAN members Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand were not on the list. 

1 million vaccines

Meanwhile, Indonesia received a shipment of 1 million doses of the China-made Sinovac vaccine on Tuesday, bringing the total number of doses delivered to the nation to nearly 220 million. The Sinovac doses account for 80 percent of vaccines received, according to the Indonesian government.

“Indonesia is currently one of the countries with the highest vaccination rates in the world, thanks to the support from many parties, including vaccine assistance from a number of countries,” said Usman Kansong, spokesman for the Ministry of Communication and Information.

Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said the government would start distributing booster shots next year to vulnerable people, including the elderly and those living with HIV/AIDS and cancer.

So far, 114.3 million people in Indonesia have been vaccinated, 69.1 million of whom have received the full dose and 1.1 million have been injected with a third dose.

Jokowi also requested that the cost of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test – considered the gold standard for detecting COVID-19 – be cut to 300,000 rupiah (U.S. $21), from the current 500,000 rupiah ($35) fee.

Jokowi’s made the request amid a public outcry against a government policy requiring air travelers to produce a negative PCR test before boarding flights. The requirement followed the decision allowing airlines to operate at full capacity.

More than 40,000 people have signed an online petition urging the government to scrap the required PCR test.

Dewangga Pradityo Putra, an aircraft engineer who started the petition, said the requirement could dissuade travelers. He called for the use of a cheaper and faster antigen test instead, especially given that only vaccinated people are allowed to fly.

“The price of a PCR test in Indonesia is very expensive. It could be more expensive than the ticket price,” Dewangga said in the petition.

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