Indonesia Ready to Tackle New COVID-19 Variant Eris, Says Minister Muhadjir
TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Culture Muhadjir Effendy asserted that the government is ready to face the latest variant of COVID-19, EG.5.1 or nicknamed Eris, which is a descendant of Omicron XBB.1.9.2. The new strain recently caused a surge in cases in the UK.
Muhadjir said the Indonesian government had already arranged a standard operating procedure to deal with a new virus. “From the previous experience [of the COVID-19 pandemic], a new virus variant of COVID-19 will be handled as an ordinary infectious disease. All hospitals have a unit to treat infectious disease,” he said at the ASEAN Secretariat in South Jakarta on Tuesday, August 8, 2023.
Hospitals have been improving in the wake of the pandemic, Muhadjir informed. To date, at least 90 percent of hospitals in the country have dedicated facilities for treating people with infectious diseases.
“[The government] should be better prepared, and the financing is automatically covered by BPJS Kesehatan. There is no more budget from the government,” he added.
An epidemiologist Windhu Purnomo explained that Eris has entered the archipelago since March. “This is not a new variant, but a new subvariant. As far as I know, EG5.1 has been detected in the UK since February 2023 and in Indonesia since early March 2023. Until now, there are already 12 sequences in Indonesia,” Windu said on Monday, August 7.
According to Windhu, the new coronavirus strain has similar characteristics to other Omicron subvariants, except the genomic structure. He assessed that what causes Eris to spread rapidly in the UK is the high public mobility and activity outdoors.
“We must not worry too much about such a situation in Indonesia because the latest serological survey conducted here at the end of December 2022 showed that more than 99% of our population already possess immunity to COVID-19 due to massive vaccination and natural infection,” Windhu concluded.
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