Health Ministry studies potential virus mutation from Indian arrivals

Health Ministry studies  potential virus mutation from Indian arrivals

Kediri immigration officers escort foreigners from India that were deported at the airport, on Monday (11/9/2020). The foreigner stayed in Indonesia beyond the time frame allowed in the residence permit. (ANTARA Jatim/ istimewa)

Jakarta (ANTARA) - Health Ministry's COVID-19 vaccination spokesperson, Siti Nadia Tarmizi, noted that the identification of SARS-CoV-2 mutations likely from immigrants from India was still being studied comprehensively by the Health Research and Development Agency (Balitbangkes).

"We are conducting whole genome sequencing on several Indian citizens that tested positive for COVID-19. (The results) may (come out) on Friday," Tarmizi noted via a text message here on Tuesday.

The whole genome sequencing was conducted by Balitbangkes in collaboration with 17 laboratories in Indonesia.

The Health Ministry has confirmed that in the exodus to Indonesia, involving 127 Indian citizens, 12 had tested positive for COVID-19.

The spokesman remarked that several related parties in Indonesia were preparing to prevent the entry of a new variant of COVID-19 from several countries, including the B117 virus from the UK, B1351 from South Africa, P1 from Brazil, and the double mutation variant B1617 in India believed to be more dangerous and swiftly contagious.

Tarmizi remarked that such conditions raised concerns over a potentially major spike in cases globally. Such conditions have driven the government to adopt a more aggressive approach for reining in coronavirus.

Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin had earlier noted in a statement to reporters that the wave of cases in India was triggered by virus mutations and the relaxation of health protocol enforcement.

Consequently, transmission of the new COVID-19 mutation occurred again and increased significantly. This situation is an eye-opener for Indonesians to always remain careful and continue to observe the rate of COVID-19 transmission.

The minister noted that Indonesia was aggressively conducting whole genome sequencing examinations to decipher more quickly the characteristics of the COVID-19 virus, so that these efforts will help to reduce transmission rates and boost recovery.

Data from the Indonesian genomic surveillance network shows that 1,191 SARS-CoV-2 sequences were examined from January 2020 to March 2021, with the results showing a mutation of the virus in Europe.

The minister appealed to people to be more vigilant by immediately vaccinating at the nearest vaccination center and continuing to comply with health protocols.

"We must always be careful. We must accelerate the vaccination program and implement health protocols to ensure our readiness to face a possible spike in cases of the B117 virus variant," he pointed out.

Meanwhile, speaking in connection with the spike in COVID-19 cases in India, the minister highlighted that the government had taken prompt steps to prevent the entry of virus mutations into Indonesia by strengthening genomic surveillance at the entrance to the country, either by land, sea, or air.

Indonesian citizens that have visited India within the last 14 days are still allowed to return to Indonesia on grounds that they undergo a 14-day quarantine and undergo two PCR swab tests at the start and end of the quarantine.

Moreover, the Indonesian government is preparing to face a spike in COVID-19 cases that is projected to start increasing in several areas.

"Since the holidays two weeks ago, there has been a slight increase during this week. This is our common duty. Do not allow what happened in India to repeat. It is better for us to be alert from the start," he stated.

He continued to urge people to be aware of the threat of COVID-19 by always implementing health protocols, so that the trend of decrease in the number of positive cases and the increase in recoveries can be maintained.

"We are grateful that the confirmed cases in Indonesia as well as the number of patients hospitalized have decreased significantly as compared to the start of the year. The drop should not catch us off guard. We must remain vigilant by implementing health protocols in accordance with the Micro-scale Restrictions on Community Activity," the health minister stated. Related news: Mutation affecting COVID vaccine efficacy: minister
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