The circulation of new variants of the corona virus from a number of countries in Indonesia is called by epidemiologists the "biggest mistake" of the Indonesian government in implementing a short quarantine policy for migrants from abroad.
Indonesia is also said to be slow to detect new variants of the corona virus from abroad that are spreading faster and have the potential to make certain types of vaccines ineffective.
Recently detected variants came from India and South Africa. While the variant from the UK was detected earlier, it has shown local transmission.
However, the government said there were only 17 laboratories in Indonesia that could carry out whole genome sequencing (WGS) to find out variants of the Covid-19 virus.
The Government Spokesperson for Handling Covid-19 added that the government has tightened supervision and quarantine for migrant workers returning to their hometowns.
To anticipate the increasing number of new variants of the corona virus from abroad, the Indonesian government has tightened supervision at the entrance to foreign arrivals.
Here's what you need to know about the new foreign variants detected in Indonesia.
The South African variant renders the vaccine ineffective?
The Indonesian government confirmed that a new variant of the corona virus from South Africa had been detected in Indonesia, following the new variants from India and the UK that had been previously detected.
A variant named B.1351 was detected from specimens taken on January 25, 2021 from a 48 year old man who had lived in Bali.
He was later pronounced dead on February 16, 2021.
Siti Nadia Tarmizi, as the spokesperson for the Covid-19 vaccination, said the Ministry of Health was collecting data for further contact tracing.
"It's a shame that the Corona B1351 case, which we know, affects the severity of the disease the fastest, so it is true that the person concerned is experiencing severe symptoms in the intensive care room," said Nadia on Tuesday (04/05).
"And we need to convey that some of the families of the B1351 case were positive, but no one ended up dying."
Nadia added, this variant from South Africa is categorized as a variant that the World Health Organization (WHO) is wary of because it has the character of faster transmission and causes disease severity that leads to death.
Yarsi University biomolecular expert Ahmad Rusjdan Utomo said this variant from south Africa was "interesting".
Because, when it was first detected in their home country in October-November last year, many Covid-19 patients who had recovered were infected again when exposed to this variant.
Although it has similar mutations to variant B.1.1.7 from England, said Ahmad, this virus is suspected to have the ability to escape antibodies.
"It's just that how badly this causes the vaccine to be ineffective depends on the vaccine. If we look at the data on vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna, it doesn't seem that much effect. But it becomes an effect when given the AstraZeneca vaccine," Ahmad explained.
Was there local transmission of the British variant?
Long before the South African variant was detected in Indonesia, a variant from the UK that was said to be spreading faster was circulating in Indonesia.
Currently there are 13 cases of variant B.1.1.7 from Britain in Indonesia, with five of them occurring in Karawang, West Java.
The Ministry of Health has confirmed that local transmissions of the new variant from the UK have been detected in a number of areas, such as in Karawang District, South Sumatra, North Sumatra, and South Kalimantan.
This is because not all cases were detected through sampling, some of which were detected through contact tracing.
The virus was mostly carried by Indonesian migrant workers who returned from countries such as Saudi Arabia and Ghana.
Just like the variant from South Africa, WHO categorizes the variant from the UK as a variant that should be watched out because it is known to have a higher transmission rate, namely 36-75% compared to the types of viruses circulating previously.
Siti Nadia Tarmi
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