Indonesia Must Be Wary of Rising COVID Cases in Neighboring Countries

In the midst of Indonesia’s success in controlling the Delta variant at this time, neighboring countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines are actually facing a higher number of cases than in the country.

However, observers asked the government not to be negligent so that the pandemic situation in the country that was starting to improve could be maintained.

Dr Sonny Harry B Harmadi, Head of Behavior Change, COVID-19 Handling Task Force, in screenshot.

Dr Sonny Harry B Harmadi, Head of Behavior Change, COVID-19 Handling Task Force, in screenshot.

One of the efforts that the government is currently undertaking is to strictly maintain Indonesia’s borders. Head of Behavior Change Division of the COVID-19 Handling Task Force, Dr Sonny Harry B Harmadi, said that currently the government has reduced the entrance for foreign nationals to Indonesia.

He explained that access by air at this time can only be through Soekarno Hatta Airport and Sam Ratulangi Airport in Manado. Meanwhile, the entrance by land that was opened was at several points. For the border area with Malaysia, the entrance can be through Entikong in West Kalimantan, Aruk in Central Kalimantan, and Nunukan in North Kalimantan.

Visitors arrive at Soekarno-Hatta Airport following the Indonesian government's decision to ban foreign tourists from entering to prevent the spread of COVID-19, in Tangerang.  (Photo: Reuters)

Visitors arrive at Soekarno-Hatta Airport following the Indonesian government’s decision to ban foreign tourists from entering to prevent the spread of COVID-19, in Tangerang. (Photo: Reuters)

As for the border with Timor Leste, the entry route can only be through Motaain. For sea access itself, the entry route can only be through Batam and Tanjungpinang ports.

“We are also increasing the supervision of illegal routes. Our land and sea border lines are very wide, so there is a strengthening of border security,” said Sonny in the discussion of the Merdeka Barat 9 Forum, Tuesday (28/9).

“We have learned from previous cases. As soon as someone enters Indonesia, who are generally migrant workers (who are repatriated), they are immediately subjected to a PCR test on the spot.”

“Within an hour, we can separate positive and negative people,” he continued.

In addition, the government also continues to increase the number of tests carried out. Sonny gave an example that the number of tests at the end of last May in one week was in the range of 434 thousand. Currently, in the period of one week, the number of inspections can reach more than 1.1 million.

Dr Masdalina Pane, Indonesian Association of Epidemiologists (PAEI), in a screenshot.

Dr Masdalina Pane, Indonesian Association of Epidemiologists (PAEI), in a screenshot.

Meanwhile, Dr. Masdalina Pane from the Association of Indonesian Epidemiologists (PAEI) said there are several things that need serious attention for the government so that the pandemic situation in the country does not worsen.

He mentioned the discrepancy in data between cases reported between the central government and local governments as well as efforts tracing in areas that are still minimal need special attention.

“How big is the difference? Between 20 percent and 34 percent. This should be a record. There should not be a gap between cases in the field and cases that are officially reported every day,” he said.

People wearing protective masks queue for the COVID-19 vaccine at Juanda International Airport, as cases spike in Sidoarjo, East Java, July 22, 2021. (Photo: Antara/Umarul Faruq via REUTERS)

People wearing protective masks queue for the COVID-19 vaccine at Juanda International Airport, as cases spike in Sidoarjo, East Java, July 22, 2021. (Photo: Antara/Umarul Faruq via REUTERS)

He then revealed the data tracing in 49 districts and cities in Java which only reached 69.7 percent of the standard target of 80 percent.

Although the government has claimed that the number of tests (testing) that has been carried out has experienced a significant increase, Masdalina argues that the number of testing that is still too small compared to the number of suspects reported by the government itself.

According to him, the government can only do testing to one-third to one-half of the number of suspects. This means that there are still quite a number of suspects who have not been tested yet.

“In fact, the priority for testing is actually those who fall into this suspect category.”

Reflecting on the Case in Singapore

Since the beginning of this week, Singapore has again tightened up to 24 October. The steps taken in the latest health protocol include the implementation of work from home and study from home activities for elementary school students for the next two weeks.

Suryopratomo, Indonesian Ambassador to Singapore, in the screenshot.

Suryopratomo, Indonesian Ambassador to Singapore, in the screenshot.

The Indonesian Ambassador to Singapore, Suryo Pratomo, said that currently there are no more than a thousand patients being treated at the hospital. This number is small when compared to the available bed capacity which reaches up to fifteen thousand beds. Of the total number of patients being treated, according to Suryo, only about 30 patients are undergoing treatment in the ICU.

“But for Singapore this number is quite large. Therefore, they anticipate, try to avoid the situation from getting worse,” said Suryo.

The Singapore government itself, continued Suryo, did not expect to see a large spike in cases. Their previous estimate, the number will not be more than 200 cases every day.

Since the Delta variant began to enter Singapore, there has been an unprecedented escalation of transmission during the year and a half of the pandemic. Suryo said, Singapore recorded an increase in daily cases starting in the 90s, going to 100, 200 to 300.

“The past week has been above a thousand. Even two days ago it touched 1,939, but yesterday it fell again to around 1,600. It is already considered very critical in Singapore,” added Suryo.

Papua Bangkit Main Stadium in Jayapura, Papua, which will be used in the XX Papua PON.  (Courtesy: Public Relations Kemenpora)

Papua Bangkit Main Stadium in Jayapura, Papua, which will be used in the XX Papua PON. (Courtesy: Public Relations Kemenpora)

Beware of the Potential for Transmission at PON Papua

Masdalina also said that the government must pay serious attention to the potential spread of COVID-19 at the 20th National Sports Week (PON) in Papua today.

“With many people meeting at PON, even with strict health protocols, this must be our anticipation. If then there is an increase in cases, due to the exchange of transmissions on mass gathering, or a gathering of many people at one time,” said Masdalina.

What happened during the Olympics and the holding of the European Cup, according to Masdalina, should be studied. Moreover, at the same time, Indonesia is planning to re-open national and international scale activities. [ns/rs]

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