Indonesia cautiously weighs vacation travel with virus concerns – KIRO 7 News Seattle

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JAKARTA, Indonesia – (AP) – Indonesians are cautiously looking ahead to vacation travel time, concerned about major tourist spending, but fear an influx of visitors could spread the coronavirus just as its pandemic situation appears to be easing.

After infection and death rates rose in July and August, officials said this week that they are sticking to plans to allow travel with some restrictions. They expect nearly 20 million people to vacation on the popular islands of Java and Bali.

The world’s fourth most populous archipelago nation has seen dramatic improvements since the devastating mid-year months, but the introduction of vaccination is lagging behind most others in Southeast Asia. Experts also question whether the official numbers tell the real story, saying there is evidence that many COVID-19 cases go undetected and go undetected, suggesting widespread travel could lead to a resurgence.

“There has been some progress in the number of cases and of course in mortality, but what the government reports does not always reflect the real situation in the communities,” said Dicky Budiman, an Indonesian epidemiologist and academic advisor to the government.

Indonesia is moving to treating the coronavirus as an endemic disease rather than one that can be eliminated from the population. Attempts are being made to balance the idea of ​​living with COVID-19 with precautionary measures to minimize the risk of another widespread outbreak.

Following the announcement that year-end travel would be allowed, the government canceled the Christmas holidays on Wednesday – a Friday this year – to discourage the holiday a little.

President Joko Widodo also urged regional officials to manage and regulate visitors to minimize the crowd.

“We hope we can handle Christmas and the New Year well, as almost all epidemiologists fear that what will trigger a third wave could be Christmas and the New Year,” he said in a statement.

The cancellation of the holiday on December 24th sparked cries of protest from the nation’s predominantly Muslim Christian minority and underscored the challenge of reconciling security restrictions with individual freedoms.

Indonesia has reported nearly 4.25 million cases and more than 143,000 deaths from COVID-19 among its 270 million people. When the hospitals became overloaded with sick patients in July and the beds and oxygen supply ran out, the 7-day moving average of deaths rose to more than 1,700 by the end of the month and early August – albeit on a per capita basis in neighboring Malaysia suffered worse.

However, the situation has improved dramatically since then and Indonesia now has one of the lowest case and death rates in the region.

As things started to turn, the government announced in late August that it would ease some restrictions and had implemented plans to reopen the island of Bali to some categories of international travelers earlier this month. So far, no significant increase in the spread of the virus has been reported, although the number of visitors has so far remained small and exclusively from domestic locations with no international flights.

But Indonesia’s vaccination rate is low compared to others in the region – raising fears that a new outbreak could spread quickly and result in large numbers of people being hospitalized. Approximately 25% of Indonesia’s eligible population were fully vaccinated, compared with 73% in Malaysia, 80% in Singapore, and even 41% in Thailand, where early delays plagued the introduction of the vaccine.

Indonesia’s vaccine campaign got off to a quick start in the cities, but administering vaccines has become much more difficult in the archipelago, which is made up of five large islands and thousands of smaller ones. There are also significantly fewer health facilities in the smaller, more rural areas, meaning any major outbreak could wreak havoc.

The actual number of cases could also be much higher than reported due to insufficient testing and tracking, Budiman said. Studies suggest that many asymptomatic cases were not reported, and it is also believed that many people treated themselves at home, either because they did not want to go to the hospital or because there was no room for them.

A study of antibodies from Jakarta residents, conducted by the University of Indonesia School of Public Health and others mid-year, found that nearly half of the people tested were infected with COVID-19. Budiman said broader research suggests that up to 15% of Indonesians – with some estimates up to 29% – have been infected since the pandemic began.

The upside is that many unvaccinated Indonesians are likely to have developed natural immunity, but Budiman predicts that this won’t be enough to prevent further surge in the more contagious Delta variant.

“Around 50 percent of our population are still very much at risk because they have no immunity and we have problems with the vaccine itself,” he said.

The situation makes it all the more important for the government to enforce existing health and safety regulations in order to strike a balance between economic interests and managing the pandemic, said John Fleming, the Asia-Pacific chief of health at the Red Cross.

“As restrictions are eased, it is vital that all public health measures are upheld, including high testing, wearing masks, maintaining physical distance and accelerating COVID-19 vaccinations to avoid future deadly waves of this Prevent virus, ”he said.

Announcing the cancellation of the Christmas holidays earlier this week, the Minister of Human Development and Culture, Muhadjir Effendy, expressed the hope that travel regulations, including the obligation of people using public transport, must have at least one vaccination and negative PCR- Air traveler tests enough to ward off danger.

“What we really need to be aware of, no matter how strictly and conservatively we apply various regulations to inhibit and prevent the transmission of COVID-19, our economy has to keep moving,” he said.

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Bangkok uprising reported.


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