The COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet. Therefore, the handling of COVID-19 transmissions continues. The government will strengthen health services through the transformation of the national health system.
DEONISIA ARLINTA, AHMAD ARIF
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JAKARTA, KOMPAS — The pandemic in Indonesia, which is now under control, is seen as a success in the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Integration and cooperation of all parties play a very important role. The efforts to deal with COVID-19 will continue and will be strengthened by the national health transformation.
Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin stated this when talking about the performance of the Health Ministry in 2022, in Jakarta on Thursday (5/1/2023). The three focuses of the Health Ministry’s 2023 program are vaccination, the handling of the pandemic and transforming the national health system. "This  is the year in which, as stated by the President, we will begin to gradually reduce government intervention and increase public participation [in handling COVID-19] as the transition to a healthy and normal life during the endemic phase," he said.
The pandemic in Indonesia, which had been under control until the end of 2022, cannot be separated from the success of the vaccination program. Indonesia is one of the countries with the fifth highest vaccination coverage in the world. More than 448 million doses were given to the public.
However, the efforts of the vaccination must be increased and continued in 2023. Coverage of the second dose of the vaccination is at 64.6 percent of the total population in Indonesia, while the target set by the World Health Organization (WHO) is at least 70 percent.
Vaccination coverage is much lower for the third dose. Coverage of the third dose of the vaccination is at 37.81 percent of the target age group of 18 years old and over. The coverage of the fourth dose of the vaccination for the elderly is at 5.32 percent.
Vaccinations for children
Budi explained that the Health Ministry this year plans to give the COVID-19 vaccine to children aged 6 months to 11 years old. Previously, the Food and Drug Supervisory Agency (BPOM) issued permits for the emergency use of the Corminaty vaccine for children aged 6 months to 11 years old. "Soon we will start the process of vaccinating children for free. The budget is sufficient to be able to vaccinate children for free," Budi said.
In addition, surveillance capacity in handling the COVID-19 pandemic has also been increased by adding genomic sequencing equipment and laboratories. At present, 41 laboratories are available in Indonesia from the previous 16 laboratories in December 2020.
Another development achieved is the use of the Peduli Lindungi health app. The Health Ministry claims that the Peduli Lindungi app has succeeded in preventing the transmission of more than 626,000 people who were positive or were in close contact with someone who had COVID-19.
Budi conveyed that the Peduli Lindungi app will be developed for use in the national health system as part of the integration and standardization platform in Satu Sehat. This app will store users’ medical history. This will be included in the health transformation program.
Contacted separately, founder of the Center for Indonesia's Strategic Development Initiatives (CISDI) Saminarsih emphasized that the government and the public must continue to be reminded that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over. According to the WHO, 10,000 deaths due to COVID-19 are still being reported worldwide.
For this reason, even though conditions in Indonesia are under control, vigilance must be increased. Anticipatory steps need to be prepared so that when cases of contagion rise again, Indonesia will be better prepared.
Globally, COVID-19 cases increased after the Omicron XBB.1.5 subvariant was discovered in 29 countries that spread rapidly in the United States. The WHO declared the XBB.1.5 variant as the most contagious variant of COVID-19.
"In the midst of the current easing, we need to be careful because there is an increase of COVID-19 cases globally and the emergence of a new infectious variant XBB.1.5," said Indonesian epidemiologist at Griffith University, Dicky Budiman.
With this development, Dicky suggested that Indonesia applied a negative COVID-19 test requirement for travelers from China, as had been done in many other countries. "Indonesia is at risk with the easing because the coverage of booster vaccinations is low. Moreover, there is a new variant," he said.
European Union crisis experts also agreed to make mandatory COVID-19 tests for travelers from China to prevent the entry of new variants or sub-variants of the coronavirus. The 27 members of the EU recommend a "precautionary approach" amid concerns over the arrival of travelers from China.
The important points of the agreement, among other things, are that EU member countries recommend all passengers leaving China show a negative COVID-19 test result carried out less than 48 hours before departure. Passengers flying from China are also required to wear a medical or surgical mask which can prevent the transmission of small particles during flight.
Indonesia is at risk with the easing because the coverage of booster vaccinations is low.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a media briefing on Wednesday (4/1), said the COVD-19 pandemic is entering its fourth year and despite progress, it is still a threat to our health, the economy and society.
"We are deeply concerned about the current epidemiological picture of COVID-19, with its intense transmission in several parts of the world and rapidly spreading recombinant subvariants," he said.
WHO Technical Director for COVID-19 Maria van Kerkhove added that now the trend of cases as well as deaths from COVID-19 is increasing. There were more than 13 million cases of COVID-19 reported to the WHO last month alone. "We know [the data] is too low because supervision has decreased," she said.