Indonesia anticipates third wave of COVID-19 pandemic

Indonesian President Joko Widodo holds a press conference related to Indonesia's planned new capital at the State Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, Aug. 26, 2019.

JAKARTA-- Indonesia has so far managed to cope with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic triggered by the more contagious Delta variant but the country has not been completely relieved from the virus.

The Southeast Asian country is now still facing the threat of other coronavirus variants as the world has not been free from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a recent virtual meeting with heads of local administrations throughout Indonesia, President Joko Widodo has called on them to do everything they can to prevent the third wave of the pandemic which is expected to occur during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

During the same period of last year, increasing crowds and population mobility led to a spike in confirmed cases of COVID-19.

"We really have to anticipate this. We should manage it well to make the Christmas and New Year holidays not an arena for transmission," Widodo said at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta recently.

A recent survey conducted by the Ministry of Transportation showed that a total of 19.9 million people have planned to travel to their hometowns for the Christmas and New Year holidays with their families.

There has been an increase in the number of COVID-19 infections in 105 areas of 30 provinces, according to the COVID-19 Task Force.

Minister of Health Budi Gunadi Sadikin said the most appropriate way to prevent it is to abide by health protocols and carry out massive origins tracing in addition to expanding the vaccination coverage, especially for vulnerable groups such as the elderly and children.

"This method is more efficient...," Sadikin added. Another way is to prevent massive population mobility in the long holiday season. "We don't want to repeat the same mistakes, so don't be too euphoric," Sadikin said. To prevent massive population mobility, the Christmas holiday on Friday, Dec. 24, has been cancelled, and so there will not be a long weekend as people will have their holiday only on Saturday, Dec. 25.

An epidemiologist from the University of Indonesia, Tri Yunis Miko, predicted that the number of COVID-19 cases would surge again from January to February 2022 but it would not be as severe as the second wave.

"Many Indonesians have already had immunity because they have been infected, in addition to the expanded range of vaccinations," Miko said. Epidemiologist from Griffith University Australia Dicky Budiman said there are two most decisive things: how big is the threat of a new variant that would attack and the extent of the current immunity of the community.

What is currently attacking in various countries is Delta Plus or AY.4.2 which is more infectious than the Delta variant, while no one knows for sure how high the community's immunity is after so many months of vaccination, he said.

The best option is to make the country fully prepared to deal with it, Budiman emphasized.

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