Covid-19 Cases are Increasing
With the discovery of the more transmissible Omicron XBB subvariant, Covid-19 cases in Indonesia are also surging. Therefore, greater caution against the infection of this disease should be exercised.
JAKARTA, KOMPAS — The Health Ministry has found three more cases of the Omicron XBB subvariant, bringing the total to four cases of this new subvariant in Indonesia. With the finding of the more infectious subvariant, a spike in Covid-19 cases is occurring. However, protection through booster vaccination is constrained by limited vaccine stocks.
At present, four confirmed cases of Omicron XBB subvariant infection have been identified. Of the total, three cases were identified in Jakarta and one in Surabaya, East Java. One case in Jakarta and another in Surabaya were travelers from Singapore. The other two cases in Jakarta had no foreign travel history.
“So, there were two Omicron XBB patients of foreign transmission from Singapore and two patients of local transmission,” said Health Minister spokesperson Mohammad Syahril at a virtual press conference in Jakarta on Wednesday (26/10/2022).
All the patients infected with the new subvariant had mild symptoms like coughing and having a runny nose. They had all been vaccinated, with two doses and others with booster vaccines. “All the patients have recovered. Previously, they were put in self-isolation,” he said.
With this discovery, the Health Ministry took an anticipatory step by tracing and examining close contacts. Results of the tracking indicated negative close contacts with patients or no exposure to the new subvariant.
As more cases of Omicron XBB were identified, the Covid-19 Control Task Force recorded a significant increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in Indonesia. Over the last two days Covid-19 cases have totaled 3,000 per day. Last week, Covid-19 cases were recorded at around 2,000 per day.
The surging cases are usually related to the new subvariant. We need to monitor within one to three days.
On Wednesday (26/10), new Covid-19 cases increased to 3,048 compared with the Tuesday (25/10) record of 3,008 cases. On Monday (24/10), the cases were only at 1,703. “The surging cases are usually related to the new subvariant. We need to monitor within one to three days. The spike may be due to other factors such as a rising number of Covid-19 tests,” he pointed out.
For the sake of certainty, the Health Ministry is intensifying whole genome sequencing (WGS) in suspected cases, especially in hospitals, in order to find out whether the XBB subvariant is dominant in Indonesia or not yet.
Earlier, chief scientist of the World Health Organization (WHO), Soumya Swaminathan, in Geneva, Switzerland, warned that several countries could be facing a new wave of Covid-19 case outbreaks resulting from the XBB subvariant as a recombinant of BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75. This subvariant has 14 additional mutations in the BA.2 spike protein.
Singapore is one of the 26 countries in the world reporting the presence of the XBB subvariant. With the subvariant finding, the number of daily cases in Singapore has soared to 6,000-8,000. Although it is rapidly transmitted, the rates of treatment and fatality of this subvariant are not higher than those of the previous variants of Omicron.
Postgraduate Director of Yarsi University, Tjandra Yoga Aditama, said if the case outburst in Indonesia was due to the Omicron XBB subvariant, it affirmed the new subvariant’s higher transmissibility. This at the same time indicates that the subvariant is most inclined to evade patients’ immune system.
Besides the XBB subvariant, the sequent XBB.1 has now been found, which is XBB with an additional spike substitute in locus G252V. “But what also needs to be watched out for besides XBB [and XBB.1] is that our neighbor the Philippines on 18 October 2022 reported 193 cases of XBC, a recombinant of the Delta variant and Omicron BA.2 subvariant, with five fatalities,” he said.
On 21 October, local transmission of the XBC subvariant (and XBB) was reported in the Philippines. This infection is feared to trigger a surge in cases and another wave.
In Britain, the XBC subvariant belongs to the category of signs that are monitored and investigated. The variants or subvariants also included in this category are BA.3, BA.4.7, BA.2.75.2, BQ.1, BQ.1.1, BF.7 and BJ.1. “We are under XBB attack and XBC is lurking near us. It affirms that we are still in the Covid-19 pandemic and need to be cautious of any potential new variant or subvariant,” he said.
Tjandra emphasized that for self-protection, health protocols should again be put into practice and vaccination be activated, particularly for those who have not gotten primary doses and booster shots. “It’s very ideal if bivalent Covid-19 vaccines can also be provided for protection from previous and Omicron variants,” he added.
Based on Health Ministry data, full-dose vaccination coverage amounts to 171.8 million doses or 63 percent of the population. Third-dose or booster shot coverage only adds up to 64.8 million doses or 24 percent of the population.
We are relocating vaccines to regions in need from regions with surplus stocks.
Syahril admitted that Covid-19 vaccine stocks were limited in several regions; some of them even reported exhausted stocks. The government strives to increase vaccine stocks from foreign sources and sets the target for the domestic Covid-19 vaccine, Indovac, to be produced as booster doses.
According to the Health Ministry’s Director of Pharmaceutical Management and Service, Dina Sintia Pamela, 5 million doses of Pfizer vaccines were obtained as a grant and would be distributed this weekend. Today, 555,000 vaccine doses are available. “We are relocating vaccines to regions in need from regions with surplus stocks,” she said.
PT Bio Farma (Persero) President Director Honesti Basyir in a press release said the emergency use authorization (EUA) for the vaccines had been granted by the Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM) for primary vaccination. Indovac vaccine clinical trials have been conducted and their results were submitted to the BPOM on 10 October 2022. The level of antibodies and neutralization of the Omicron variant were claimed to have increased.
This article was translated by Aris Prawira.