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Epidemiologist Predicts Indonesia the Last Country to Be COVID-free

Dicky Budiman

An epidemiologist from Australia’s Griffith University, Dicky Budiman, has predicted that Indonesia will be the last country to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic compared to other countries in the world.

“Why do I predict that Indonesia will be the last to come out of the pandemic? Because if we look at several factors from geography and its 3T (testing, tracing, and treatment) control,” said Dicky.

He explained two factors that indicated Indonesia’s difficulty to “escape” from the COVID-19 pandemic.

First, Indonesia is an archipelagic country. Dicky said with these conditions it was very easy to create a ping-pong phenomenon of COVID-19 cases, which he said had been occurring already.

He gave an example of the ping-pong phenomenon as the peak of cases at the end of January 2021. At that time, the case numbers were dominated by Java and Bali. In one to two months, the cases on the island of Sumatra began to increase.

Even in the surge of cases after Eid al-Fitr, Java and Bali began to experience improvements. However, Dicky said, Sumatra and even East Nusa Tenggara began to experience an increase in COVID-19 cases at that time. This is evidenced by the red zones that occur in 34 provinces of Indonesia.

“Other islands will now increase, maybe August has started to show. Later, the national wave will go down and up, it’ll be bumpy,” he said.

Dicky continued that the second reason is that the government’s testing, tracing, and treatment (3T) strategy is still not aggressive and wide enough, despite the pandemic having plagued Indonesia for the last 16 months.

Regarding testing, Dicky admitted that in the last few months Indonesia had exceeded the threshold set by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which is 1:1,000 of the population being examined per week. However, according to him, it is not enough due to Indonesia’s positivity rate is still being above 20 percent.

The inspection target of 400,000 tests per day set by the Health Ministry is not ideal. He said the testing strategy should be accompanied by tracing, which is 1:20. This means that for every positive confirmed case of COVID-19, the government is required to find and examine at least 20 close contacts of the patient.

If explained in numbers, based on the findings of 47,791 COVID-19 cases in a day on Wednesday 28th July, the government should have tested 955,820 people that day. In fact, the government report noted that only 185,181 people were examined.

“Our strategy is not to focus on health from the start, so we are left behind. If we run races, we are already behind the virus, so to catch up is difficult,” he said.

Dicky hopes that his prediction can serve as an alert to the central and local governments. He stated that there are three strategies to get out of the pandemic.

First, strengthen 3T as much as possible. Second, the community must apply the 5M health protocols which include wearing masks, washing hands, maintaining distance, staying away from crowds, and reducing mobility. And third, to boost the vaccination program as an additional effort.

“I am targeting policymakers with what is called estimation, projection, prediction – it must be the basis for mitigating COVID-19 control. It is also hoped that what is predicted does not happen,” said Dicky.

The distribution of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia has not yet reached the government’s target of reducing cases to below 10,000 cases during the Implementation of emergency and level 4 PPKM.

In the last 13 days, the number of daily COVID-19 deaths in Indonesia has stood at more than 1,000. If calculated cumulatively, in the last 13 days, 18,467 people have died after being infected with COVID-19.

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