Street vendors and shoppers at Tanah Abang Market in Jakarta on May 18. (SP Photo/Joanito De Saojoao)

Indonesian Gov't Denies Turning to Herd Immunity


JUNE 03, 2020

Jakarta. The Indonesian government's National Covid-19 Task Force denied claims the country is trying to reach herd immunity to try to put an end to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The task force's lead expert Wiku Adisasmito said herd immunity is almost impossible to achieve in archipelagic Indonesia, which has a huge population inhabiting different islands separated from each other.


"How could people on different islands infect each other when mobility and interaction between them are restricted," Wiku said in Jakarta on Tuesday.

According to the epidemiologist, herd immunity could only be achieved after at least 70 percent of the population is infected and develop immunity to the virus.

Wiku said herd immunity would take too long to achieve in an archipelago like Indonesia.  

"Herd immunity could only happen if we live in close proximity to each other and [continuously] bumping into one another. But with all the restrictions in place, not enough people would get infected and there would be no immunity," Wiku said.

He said the government's aim has always been to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

This is why the official recommendations have been to wear a mask, wash hands frequently with soap and follow physical distancing guidelines.

Public opinion has been divided since the government announced a plan to reopen the economy in a "new normal." 

With Indonesia's pandemic curve showing no signs of flattening, the move is seen as a signal that the government is finally turning to herd immunity to quell the outbreak.

According to the University of Oxford's Oxford Vaccine Group, "herd immunity only works if most people in the population are vaccinated."

When most people are vaccinated, it would be harder for the virus to spread because the vaccinated people act as a "shield" by not passing it on to more vulnerable people.

Many other countries have also ruled out pursuing herd immunity without a vaccine, arguing it is not a viable strategy for putting an end to the pandemic.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described herd immunity as "a death sentence" and vowed to avoid it, according to Australian media reports.  

The strategy is also considered unethical, with the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Mahfud M.D. calling it "inhumane" back in March.