November 7, 2022
JAKARTA – The government will maintain the four-tiered public activity restrictions (PPKM) level amid a new rise of COVID-19 cases and local transmissions of the new XBB strain of the Omicron variant.
“I reiterate that the government will keep using the PPKM level as the basis for activity curbs for residents, which we will keep evaluating as well,” Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said on his Instagram post on Friday.
The minister, who oversees the government’s pandemic responses in Java and Bali, said that during the PPKM evaluation meeting earlier on Friday, he urged caution and reevaluation as the past week had seen the rise of new daily cases that passed the 5,000 mark.
A total of 5,303 cases were reported on Friday – the first time daily caseload reached more than 5,000 since Aug. 19 – and 4,717 on Saturday.
Luhut said that currently Java and Bali are witnessing rising new confirmed cases daily and a significant rise of deaths in Central Java and Yogyakarta.
On Thursday, the reported new cases of 4,951 was more than double the 2,457 new cases recorded on Monday. The country recorded 4,873 and 4,707 new cases on Wednesday and Tuesday, respectively.
The minister also said that according to past data and trajectory of COVID-19 cases, any new variants of the virus would reach its peak in the next one to two months.
He added that the new XBB strain was expected to reach its peak wave lower than during the Omicron variant wave earlier this year.
The government has prepared mitigation steps such as by increasing booster vaccination shots, while also calling the public to keep observing health protocols, especially by wearing masks indoors.
“I think I will never be tired of reminding all people to keep observing health protocols to prevent the worst from happening,” Luhut said.
The first confirmed case caused by the XBB subvariant detected on Oct. 22 was a 29-year-old woman who lives in Surabaya, East Java, who had traveled to Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara. XBB is said to be the most antibody-evasive subvariant to date, although there is no evidence that it can cause more severe illness in people who have immunity from a previous infection or vaccine. Some scientists believe XBB is more contagious than BA.5, another Omicron subvariant that triggered a wave of infections in Indonesia in July and August.
Health Ministry spokesperson Muhammad Syahril said in a press briefing on Friday that the increasing number of cases were not cause for high concern.
“The increase in cases are still within limits and have not been significant or too high compared to the previous Omicron variant strains, the BA 4 or the BA 5,” Syahril said on Friday.
The ministry stated that as of Friday Indonesia had recorded 12 cases of the XBB strain, of which two were international travelers, while 10 cases were local transmissions.
Syahril said that in the 28 countries that had recorded cases of the XBB strain, it was not necessarily followed by the rise of deaths and hospitalization and most countries saw a decrease in new cases.
However, Syahril urged residents to keep observing health protocols, refrain from crowded activities and get vaccinated, including booster shots, as the booster vaccination rate is currently only at 27.62 percent.
“We hope that residents can get the booster or third shot of the vaccine so we can reach the 50 percent [of the booster vaccination rate target] and keep wearing masks,” Syahril said.
He added that the government also prepared other mitigation steps, including making sure of the preparedness of hospitals and other healthcare facilities, as well as increasing the tracing and testing efforts.