An Army soldier donates blood at the Blood Transfusion Unit of the Gatot Soebroto Army Central Hospital, Jakarta, Tuesday (August 18, 2020). (ANTARA FOTO/NOVA WAHYUDI/RA) -
Scientists have predicted that the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which peaked in Indonesia on July 15, 2021, may not be the last, as the coronavirus continues to mutate.
Experts from the Alliance of Indonesian Scientists for Pandemic Resolution said the situation is like a trap in which the cycle would revolve at high transmission rates with the emergence of new variants - longer pandemics - economic crises - and the lessening of public activities.
According to the COVID-19 Task Force report, from November 2020 to January 2021 Indonesia recorded an increase in daily cases from 24,932 to 89,052. In the second wave, from May to July 2021, there was a spike in cases from 35,470 to 253,600.
The government also has been working to reduce the number of cases through implementing Public Activity Restrictions (PPKM), fulfilling health care facilities, and accelerating vaccinations.
As a result, COVID-19 cases at the national level, as of August 29, 2021, decreased by 86.9 percent compared to the second wave.
"We have not succeeded in controlling the pandemic. We are still trapped in a vicious circle. Cases will continue to fluctuate if government policies are still patchy, where the program only focuses on dealing with the current situation, not on anticipatory measures," said Epidemiologist from the University of Indonesia (UI) Pandu Riono.
Riono added that Indonesia was still vulnerable to the pandemic due to the handling of the Corona outbreak, which tended to be sporadic. When there is a spike in cases, the government immediately imposes social restrictions.
However, when the easing is carried out, ironically, the mobility and activities of the community are the ones that trigger the increase in the number of cases again.
The presence of a new, more virulent variant, he said, could make it more difficult for Indonesia to get out of a protracted public health crisis. For this reason, a way out of the pandemic must be considered and realized to reduce the mortality and morbidity of COVID-19 at this time, and get Indonesia out of the pandemic crisis in the long term.
The COVID-19 Handling Task Force reported that as of Wednesday (September 1), a whole-genome sequencing (WGS) examination had been carried out in Indonesia on 5,790 samples, and it was found that 2,323 of them were variants of concern, namely Alpha, Beta, and Delta.
Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said the efficacy of m-RNA-based vaccines decreased quite dramatically when dealing with the Delta variant of the coronavirus. He observed that this condition occurred in the second wave of cases in some countries with high vaccination rates, for example, the United States.
For that reason, the Health Ministry has also changed its strategy to reach herd immunity from initially reaching 70 percent of the population to targeting as many as citizens vaccinated.
"We have carried out a series of situation evaluation analyzes, where the achievement of herd immunity is no longer 70 to 80 percent (of the population vaccinated), but most of the people in Indonesia can be vaccinated," Deputy Minister of Health Dante Saksono Harbuwono stated.
The Alliance of Indonesian Scientists for Pandemic Resolution has proposed a solution, in the form of a post-pandemic scenario.
The three main principles in the scenario are 'empathy' or care for others, which is the foundation in handling every humanitarian crisis, 'equity' as equality and justice that guarantees access for all citizens, without discrimination in obtaining the right to a healthy and happy life. Finally, 'episteme' is an effort in scientific knowledge needed to guide the uncertainty and risk of a pandemic.
Based on these three principles, the Alliance of Scientists emphasizes two crucial points needed to resolve the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthen the government's capacity to anticipate future pandemics. These include the roadmap for resolving the pandemic and developing pandemic governance through institutionalizing disease outbreak control agencies//ANT