Omicron Arrives in Indonesia
[Updated at 12:01 p.m. on Thursday, Dec 16, 2021, to add chart and new details about five other Omicrom probable cases]
Jakarta. The government has announced on Thursday that the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus had been detected in Indonesia, being the latest country to detect the most transmissible Covid-19 variant.
Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said that one of the three cleaning workers at Wisma Atlet Kemayoran — a government-sponsored athlete village, turned into a quarantine and isolation facility for Covid-19 patients and overseas travelers in Jakarta — tested positive for Omicron following gene sequencing tests.
"Last night, Dec 15, 2015, the Ministry of Health found out that patient N was a confirmed Omicron variant patient," Budi said in a press conference on Thursday, identifying the patient by their initial.
Patient N is a cleaner at Wisma Atlet, Budi said. The patient and his coworkers took a PCR test on Dec 8 as part of periodic testings at the facility. Later, the Ministry of Health delivered their samples to its lab for genome sequencing.
"We received samples on Dec 10, there were three cleaning workers who were positive, but one was positive for omicron," Budi said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said Omnicron was spreading at an unprecedented rate worldwide, reaching 77 countries since first detected in South Africa in November. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday that it was most likely present in many other countries where it had not yet been detected.
Tedros warned that countries might be underprepared to fight the variant.
"Surely, we have learned by now that we underestimate this virus at our peril. Even if Omicron does cause less severe disease, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems," he said.
Studies suggested Omnicron can escape existing vaccines or natural induced immunity, increasing the risk of reinfection among the population.
Tedros said countries should start giving booster vaccine doses to the most vulnerable groups like the elderly and the frontline and health workers. Indonesia has been giving booster shots to the medical workers in the past few months and will start delivering the shots to a broader population next year.
Five More Probable Omicron Cases
Budi said patient N had no prior history of overseas travel, suggesting they got infected by the Omicron variant from other patients or overseas travelers quarantined at the facility.
The patient and his two other coworkers were asymptomatic and had recovered from Covid-19.
"They are healthy, have no fever, and no cough. Three of them had been tested by PCR again [...] three days later, and the test was negative," Budi said.
Budi Gunadi Sadikin also revealed five other probable Omicron cases, including two Indonesian citizens who had recently returned from the United States and the United Kingdom. Both are isolated at Wisma Atlet.
The other three were foreigners from China, currently staying in an isolation facility in Manado, North Sulawesi.
"The genome sequencing for the five is still ongoing. We expected to get the result in the next three days," Budi said.
He asked the public not to worry and panic and appealed to the public to reduce non-urgent overseas trips. The ministry data showed that despite the Omicron arrival, Indonesia's number of active cases has continued to decline in the past two weeks.
"Omicron's hospitalization rate is indeed lower Delta's, but we still have to be vigilant. The government will prepare the infrastructure, starting from hospitals, ambulances to the medical workers," he said.