Jakarta. Indonesia has recently reported local transmission of the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-lineages of the Omicron Covid-19 variant in the highly populous Jakarta.
“We have detected 5 locally transmitted cases of the [BA.4 and BA.5] variants, of which four were discovered in Jakarta. One was identified in Bali, but the person in question was a media worker who came from Jakarta,” Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin told the press on Monday.
To date, Indonesia has confirmed three imported cases of the said variants from Mauritius, the US, and Brazil. They came to Indonesia for the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction forum in Bali last month. This brings Indonesia’s BA.4 and BA.5 tally to eight, according to Budi.
The minister said that the Omicron sub-variants had fueled a surge of Covid-19 infections overseas. However, the BA.4 and BA.5 are less likely to result in hospitalization or cause death compared to Delta and Omicron.
“The [cases] during BA.4 and BA.5 peaks are only one-third compared to when Delta and Omicron peaked. The same goes for its hospitalization rate. The death rate is also only one-tenth of that of Delta and Omicron,” Budi told the conference.
According to Budi, the BA.4/BA.5 wave usually reaches its peak a month after the discovery of the first case. So Indonesia will likely see the new sub-variants peak in the second or third week of July.
“If our people are truly ready, especially with a robust booster [vaccination], it is very likely that the [number of cases recorded] during the [BA.4/BA.5] peak will not be that high. Boosters strengthen our body's immune system by another six months, so this [immunity] will last until February or March," Budi said.
"If we can keep this up, Indonesia will become the first country to not face a Covid-19 spike in 12 months. Because case spikes usually come in every six months."
As of Monday, Indonesia has administered the third dose of Covid-19 vaccine to at least 47.7 million people. This means that only 22.93 percent of its targeted population have gotten the booster jab, the Health Ministry reported.
Indonesia aims to vaccinate 208.2 million people.
Is Mudik Behind the Rising Infections?
The Health Ministry data showed that Indonesia’s Covid-19 daily tally had been topping 500 over the past week.
On June 12, Indonesia logged 551 new infections. This marked quite a jump compared to the 342 daily cases that the country reported on June 5.
When asked by the press if the recent mudik —during which many Indonesians returned to their hometown for Eid— had caused the case increase, Budi attributed the rising infections to the new Covid-19 variants.
The minister said that Covid-19 infections previously surged about 27-34 days after religious holidays such as Christmas or Eid. Indonesia is now only seeing its cases rise about 40 days after Eid celebrations in May.
“So the new variant is what causes the increase in Covid-19 cases. This is also what is happening in other countries with diverse religious holidays," Budi said.