Indonesia prepares for transition to COVID-19 endemic after decline in new cases

After breathing a sigh of relief from the second wave of COVID-19 transmission, Indonesia is now preparing for the transition from pandemic to endemic.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Friday while monitoring COVID-19 vaccination at a school for the disabled in the province of Yogyakarta that COVID-19 would not go away anytime shortly.

“We must prepare for that transition and learn to live together with COVID-19,” Widodo said.

In late June to early August, the Southeast Asian country faced a spike in COVID-19 transmissions triggered by the more contagious Delta variant.

The COVID-19 Task Force recorded that the biggest number of daily cases of 56,757 was recorded on July 15 and the highest death toll of 2,068 happened on July 27.

But the downward trend in daily new cases and death started to appear since mid-August. On Sept. 12, the newly-confirmed daily cases were recorded at 3,779, with 188 deaths.

The government has begun to relax the public mobility restrictions, locally known as PPKM, and economic activities such as shopping centers and offices have resumed operations with limited capacity and operating hours to prevent further transmission.

During the transition from pandemic to endemic, people could return to their activities according to the PPKM level in their respective regions, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said on Friday.

“People have to be disciplined by complying with health protocols and getting vaccinated. We encourage testing, tracing and treatment, including centralized isolation, so that the new cases could be identified quickly,” he said.

The government has carried out pilot projects to popularize the use of a test-and-trace application, called PeduliLindungi, which records people’s whereabouts and vaccination status.

Dicky Budiman, an epidemiologist of Griffith University, told Xinhua recently that a transition could be made if a country has managed to control the pandemic, provided that the positivity rate has consistently stayed at less than 1 percent and the vaccination has covered more than 80 percent of the targeted population.

“Indonesia is still at risk and prone to an increase in cases. It also has the potential to face a third wave with the threat of new variants and vaccination coverage of less than 50 percent,” said Budiman.

Therefore, President Widodo asked people not to be complacent about the decline in cases.

“We all have to be aware that COVID-19 is always stalking us, so health protocols must be followed continuously,” he said.

To date, at least 41.73 million people in Indonesia have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and 72.76 million have taken their first shot. Enditem