Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin gives a press statement about vaccine arrival from Sinovac at Soekarno Hatta International Airport in Banten last Sunday. (Antara Photo/Muhammad Iqbal)

This Could Be Us: India's Covid-19 2nd Wave Serves as a Warning for Indonesia

BY :JAKARTA GLOBE

APRIL 20, 2021

Jakarta. Authorities have warned against the Covid-19 second wave in Indonesia, raising concerns that euphoria surrounding vaccination would cause people to drop their discipline in implementing health protocols that could trigger a spike in cases like what happened in India.

The Southeast Asia country reported 5,095 new Covid-19 cases on Monday, around a third of its peak in January. In comparison, India reported 273,802 new cases on Monday, spiking by 589 percent in the past month and already exceeding its first peak in December. 

Still, new cases in Indonesia have stopped declining in the past two weeks, and the positivity rate is also trending up again, data from the Health Ministry showed. The seven-day moving average was at 5.354 cases on Monday, similar to what it was two weeks ago. 

Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said he was worried that Indonesia might see a spike in cases like what happened in India.

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"People are already euphoric [about vaccination]. They don't stay alert," Budi said late on Sunday. 

Indonesia started the vaccination program on Jan 13. Since then, it has vaccinated more than 10.9 million people so far, or about 5 percent of the population needed to be immunized for the country to achieve herd immunity. 

India started vaccination a week earlier than Indonesia when the case there was trending down. The decline was so pronounced that India's health minister Harsh Vardhan declared the country has reached "the endgame" of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a report by British broadcasting agency BBC. 

The South Asia country soon allowed cricket matches in full-packed stadiums, elections in five of its states, and religious festivals that gather millions of people at River Ganges with negligible health protocols. 

"There was a feeling of triumphalism," P. Srinath Reddy, the president of the Public Health Foundation of India, told BBC. "Some felt we had achieved herd immunity. Everyone wanted to get back to work. This narrative fell on many receptive ears, and the few voices of caution were not heeded to," he said.

For Minister Budi, what happened in India served as a dire warning for Muslim-majority Indonesia. In a month, Indonesia would observe Idul Fitri, the country's largest holiday, which usually sees more than 20 million people make homecoming travel to visit their extended families. 

"I am afraid because what we have achieved is already good, namely PPKM [small-scale restrictions on community activities] combined with vaccines, "Budi said.

Based on his observations, Budi said that the spike in Covid-19 cases could occur due to three factors. First, the increase in the number of new variant cases with faster transmission. The World Health Organization (WHO) identified several variants of concern, namely B117 from England, B1351 from South Africa, and variants B11281 or P1 from Brazil.

The second factor is that the community feels that the case has dropped to be back to normal. Third, a false sense of security stemming from vaccination. 

The vaccination rate was still low in many countries, which meant a spike in cases was still very likely, Budi said.

"The United Kingdom has had 50 percent vaccination. That's okay. India is only 5 percent, Chile 20 percent, we [Indonesia] 6 percent. If it's not 50 percent and we slack off, the number of cases will go up,” said Budi.

The government has to prohibit homecoming travel during Idul Fitri holidays from May 6 to 17 to avoid Covid-19 cases spiking. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo urged Indonesians to remain vigilant and uphold health protocols at all times. 

"We must convey what it is that the Covid pandemic still exists and is real in our country. Therefore, we still have to remember and be vigilant, pay attention, and stay alert. You can't afford to be careless. You can't underestimate Covid-19,” Jokowi said on Monday. 

 

 

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