JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – A third wave of the coronavirus pandemic has begun to take hold across the country, with the Omicron variant of the virus reportedly leading to increased cases and hospitalizations in the capital, where more than 80% of the population has been vaccinated.
On Thursday January 27, the country recorded 8,077 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, the highest official daily case count since August last year, when the country was struggling to contain the Delta-induced second wave. , which had peaked at 56,757 cases a month earlier.
While studies have shown Omicron to be less virulent than its predecessors, experts have warned that the variant’s high transmissibility could lead to a spike in cases that could disastrously overwhelm the healthcare system.
Jakarta has seen an increase in hospitalizations as cases start to soar again, sparking calls for the government to tighten restrictions and put a pause on in-person education.
The capital’s Covid-19 bed occupancy rate (BOR) rose from 8% on January 3 to 38% on Wednesday, according to the Ministry of Health website.
As the only province with a double-digit BOR, Jakarta has once again become the epicenter of the pandemic. The BOR in hospitals nationwide stood at 10% on Wednesday.
Despite its high vaccination rate, Jakarta saw its number of active Covid-19 cases triple in the past week, from 4,300 cases on January 18 to 14,000 on Wednesday, with its daily cases rising from 670 to 1,886 during the same period.
In recent days, new Covid-19 clusters have started to emerge in the capital, reviving the collective memory of the early days of the first and second waves.
The Ministry of Social Affairs building in central Jakarta, for example, was placed under lockdown until at least January 31 after 60 of its employees tested positive for the virus, while 90 schools in Jakarta were closed after their students and teachers, who have just restarted in-person learning, contracted the virus.
Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said at a press conference on Thursday that he was confident Indonesia would be able to control the third wave, saying Omicron, which is believed to be the culprit behind the outbreak , was softer and therefore unlikely to overwhelm the nation. health care system.
“The Omicron variant has higher transmissibility but a lower mortality rate because most patients recover without needing hospitalization,” the minister said.
The Health Ministry has recorded 1,988 cases of Omicron in the country since it reported its first case in mid-December. Of those cases, only 854 people were hospitalized, more than 90% of whom were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms.
An expert staff member from the Office of the Presidential Chief of Staff issued a statement asking asymptomatic Covid-19 patients to self-isolate at home, saying some Jakarta citizens have had difficulty accessing hospital services. “The public shouldn’t panic. The (World Health Organization) has said that Omicron is softer than Delta. We just have to be proportionately careful,” said Mr. Abraham Wirotomo.