Indonesia unfazed by China’s Covid-19 surge, easing travel curbs

“As long as our serosurvey shows results above 90 percent, it means we already have proper immunity", the President said.

Fikri Harish

Fikri Harish

The Jakarta Post


Back to normal: People throng a shopping mall in Surabaya on Oct. 13, 2022 to watch a rock climbing competition for young people. As the government has loosened COVID-19 restrictions, shopping malls and other public facilities have resumed normal activities.(AFP/Juni Kriswanto)

December 28, 2022

JAKARTA – President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has said that he is not worried about a possible surge of COVID-19 infections from foreign tourists amid concerns of surging of cases in China, which has decided to relax its strict pandemic measures.

“As long as our serosurvey shows results above 90 percent, which means we already have proper immunity, then whatever comes our way won’t be a problem,” said the President when responding to questions on how the government plans to anticipate the rise of COVID-19 infections in China.

President Jokowi made the statement as Beijing planned to reopen its borders after three years of a stringent lockdown, a policy that has elated its pandemic-fatigued citizens. Jubilant Chinese people are flocking to travel sites to search for cross-border destinations, Reuters has reported.

Data from travel platform Ctrip showed that within half an hour of the news, searches for popular cross-border destinations had increased 10-fold. Macau, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, South Korea were the most sought-after, Ctrip said.

Data from another platform, Qunar, showed that within 15 minutes of the news, searches for international flights jumped sevenfold, with Thailand, Japan and South Korea at the top of the list.

Bracing for new variants

Indonesia is confident that it can keep COVID-19 infections under control.

According to the latest serology survey conducted by the Health Ministry in August, 98 percent of the country’s population was found to possess antibodies against COVID-19, either because of vaccinations or past infections.

Jokowi previously said that he hoped to lift virus restrictions by the end of 2022. “We’re still waiting on reports from the Health Ministry and epidemiologists as we want to get this right. Depending on the reports, we hope that we can [lift all COVID-19 restrictions] by the end of this year,” said President Jokowi on Monday.

The Health Ministry confirmed the President’s confidence, but added it would still keep its guard up, especially regarding the possibility of new variants.

“We hope that we won’t experience [a surge in COVID-19 cases], and we’ll strengthen genomic surveillance to prepare for any new variants,” Health Ministry spokesperson Siti Nadia Tarmizi told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

With the government exploring the idea of ending the public activity restrictions that have been in place since March 2020, Siti underlined the importance of genomic surveillance and maintaining public immunity through booster shots.

No more holiday curbs

Indonesia has recently begun to show signs of moving past COVID-19. Unlike the past two years, Christmas celebrations were held without any kind of capacity restrictions this year, with the public likening this year’s festivities to how it was before the pandemic.

In a return to normalcy, the Jakarta administration also has plans to bring back public New Year’s Eve celebrations across the city, with a car-free night and public performances scheduled along Jl. Sudirman and Jl. MH Thamrin and around the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle.

After a surge in November, the country has experienced a continued decline in new COVID-19 infections, with a seven-day average of under 1,000 cases. In response, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) announced on Friday that the former athletes village in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, that has been co-opted as an emergency hospital, will be decommissioned

“With this letter, we announce that the Wisma Atlet Kemayoran emergency hospital will cease operation by Dec. 31,” said BNPB head Lt. Gen. Suharyanto.

Growing concern in Japan

China, which had maintained a zero-COVID policy, finally eased up some of its restrictions after a series of public protests in November. The abrupt change has caused a massive surge in cases that has reportedly overwhelmed hospitals across the country.

Amid rising cases, with reports of hospitals being swamped by incoming patients, it plans to unwind more of its restrictions, with inbound travelers no longer required to quarantine on arrival from Jan. 8 onward, according to AFP.

After the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020, China required all arriving passengers to undergo quarantine for three weeks. The quarantine period was reduced to one week in June and to five days in November.

Japan is less confident about the situation in China and its impacts. It has announced that travelers from mainland China and those who have been there within the previous seven days will have to comply with COVID-19 screening tests after arriving in the country. According to Reuters, those who test positive will have to quarantine for seven days.

“Concern has been growing in Japan as it is difficult to grasp the detailed situation [in China],” said Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday. The prime minister also said that Japan planned to cap the number of flights coming in and out of China.

As with China, Japan has experienced a surge in infections after the country opened its border in October. (ahw)

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