An Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI) researcher works on a coronavirus detection kit at the institute’s laboratory in Serpong, Tangerang, Banten. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

UK Offers Help to Detect Coronavirus Variants

BY :HERU ANDRIYANTO

JANUARY 29, 2021

Jakarta. The UK government offers worldwide assistance to find new variants of coronavirus while maintains that a new variant first spotted in the country does not necessarily mean that it originated in the UK.

New variants of the virus that causes Covid-19 are also identified in South Africa and Brazil. There are concerns that the new mutants can spread more easily than the original virus, although it has not been scientifically proved that they are deadlier or more resistant to vaccine. 

Countries around the world including Indonesia can apply for technical and scientific collaboration with the UK to “identify changes in the virus”, while providing an early warning of new mutations that could endanger everyone, the UK Embassy in Jakarta said in a statement on Friday.

It says quickly identifying new variants is critical because they threaten to make treatments and diagnostics ineffective, and to make the pandemic harder to control. 

“I hope people understand that a variant being described as “British” does not mean the variant originated in the UK and blame us,” British Ambassador to Indonesia Owen Jenkins said.

“The UK is carrying out so much more genomic testing than any other country -- more than 50% of the total sequences completed worldwide -- so it is only logical that the UK will often be the one often finding new variants.”

He added the collaboration may involve Indonesia’s Research and Technology Ministry and Jakarta-based Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology who already have the capability to genome sequence viruses.

Indonesia has not reported cases caused by the new mutants, including the so-called “UK variant”.

Coronavirus cases have been rising dramatically in Indonesia since the beginning of the month. In the first 29 days of the year, the country has recorded more than 308,000 cases, bringing the total number of cases to 1,051,795, according to Health Ministry data.

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January will top the previous monthly high recorded in December by more than 100,000 cases.

There have been 13,802 new cases in the past 24 hours, the second-highest daily rise since a record 14,224 cases registered on Jan. 16.

The total number of active cases stands at 170,000 or 16.2 percent of the overall cases.

With 7,380 Covid deaths in the 29-day period, January has been the deadliest month in the Indonesian outbreak, beating the previous monthly high by more than 2,000 deaths, according to the Jakarta Globe tally.

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The country has broken record for the highest daily death toll six times throughout the month and topped 400 coronavirus-related deaths in a single day for the first time yesterday. 

Coronavirus has killed 29,518 people in Indonesia since the outbreak began.

Jakarta is home to 25 percent of the national count with a total of 262,753 cases, including 4,195 deaths. The capital city has added 79,000 cases since Jan. 1.

West Java comes next with a total of 142,887 cases and 1,843 deaths. The total number of cases in the province has jumped by 167.6 percent since Dec. 1.

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Central Java has been averaging 1,424 cases since the beginning of the month, in comparison to an average of 833 cases in December. It has recorded a total of 123,003 cases and 5,342 deaths.

East Java has recorded the highest death toll with a total of 7,691 coronavirus-related deaths from 111,109 cases.

The country’s four most populous provinces make up more than 60 percent of the overall cases nationwide.

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The surge begins to slow in South Sulawesi, Riau and West Sumatra, but other hotspots have added the pace in new infections.

They include East Kalimantan, Yogyakarta, Bali and Banten.

The seven-day average in East Kalimantan hit a new high on Friday with 544 cases. It has recorded a total of 39,853 cases to be ranked sixth among worst-affected provinces, just below South Sulawesi (46,932 cases).

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Bali moved to the ninth place with a total of 25,661 cases by overtaking Banten (25,633) on Friday.

Yogyakarta has added 9,099 cases since Jan. 1 for a total of 21,254 amid a dramatic surge in newly cases. It has recorded more cases in the last 29 days than it did from the start of the pandemic in early March through Dec. 18. 

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