Police step up anticipatory measures against potential COVID wave

Police step up anticipatory measures against potential COVID wave

National Police chief General Listyo Sigit Prabowo reviews vaccinations in Bogor district, West Java province on November 27, 2021. (ANTARA/HO-National Police Press Bureau/rst)

“Do not remove your mask. Please always wear your mask,” National Police chief General Listyo Sigit Prabowo urged the residents he met during a visit to Surakarta City, Central Java, in mid-November 2021.

His interactions with the public, reminding them about the importance of implementing the health protocols, were shared on his official Instagram account @kepalakepolisian_ri as an effort to bring the police closer to the community as well as convey messages of security and public order.

The decline in cases of COVID-19 in Indonesia has led to people disregarding the importance of implementing the health protocols, which are one of the keys for suppressing the COVID-19 curve.

Wearing a mask is one of the three parts of the 3M movement besides washing hands and keeping a safe distance from others.

However, ahead of the upcoming Christmas and New Year holidays, the government, through the COVID-19 Task Force, has reminded local governments and the public to remain alert for a potential increase in COVID-19 cases after the holidays.

Epidemiologists have warned about a potential third COVID-19 wave at the end of 2021, especially considering the AY.4.2 variant being detected in Malaysia and Singapore.

Moreover, several African countries, namely South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, and Eswatini, have detected a new COVID-19 variant called Omicron.

Learning from the condition in other countries, Indonesia must prepare for the possibility of a spike in cases, even though COVID-19 cases in Indonesia have shown a sloping trend, epidemiologists said.

Based on what was observed in 2020-2021, a long holiday period is usually followed by an increase in cases.

Thus, it is necessary to take preventive measures to avoid the potential for transmission. According to the COVID-19 Handling Task Force, there are four factors that can affect any increase in cases during the long holiday period: population mobility, vaccination coverage, health protocol compliance, and effective reproduction (RT), or the level of virus transmission.

According to the COVID-19 Task Force, out of 34 provinces in Indonesia, four provinces have low levels of health protocol compliance and vaccination coverage—Riau, Maluku, Southeast Sulawesi, and Lampung.

Strategies for preventing COVID-19 transmission

During a working visit to monitor COVID-19 handling in all provinces, National Police Chief General Listyo Sigit Prabowo reminded the Regional Leadership Coordination Forum (Forkopimda) to remain alert to the possibility of a third wave of infections spreading in the country during Christmas and New Year.

He asked Forkopimda not to be careless amid the sloping cases and asked them to prepare COVID-19 control strategies in their respective regions.

During a cross-sectoral meeting at the National Police Headquarters on November 26, 2021, the National Police chief outlined a strategy to prevent infections during the year-end holidays.

The strategy, which was adjusted to the government policy, covers COVID-19 handling from upstream to downstream and strict supervision of the health protocols in all transportation modes. The National Police has implemented Operasi Lilin to supervise the implementation of Level 3 community activity restrictions (PPKM) during Christmas and New Year.

In keeping with the upstream to downstream handling strategy, police have tightened the health protocols for the homecoming travel process from pre-departure to the designated location of home-comers.

Health protocols have been tightened, starting at the urban village level, with the help of PPKM Command Posts. Home-comers are now required to submit a homecoming certificate, second dose vaccine certificate, and the results of an antigen swab or PCR test.

Under the next strategy, the National Police will prepare posts for community vaccinations and quarantine sites for people who test positive for the virus.

The police will also establish a check-point post to ensure the implementation of health protocols runs well to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Next, police will increase surveillance of travelers from abroad at airports to prevent the entry of new variants of COVID-19.

The National Police (Polri) will also strengthen collaboration with the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) and all elements of society to accelerate vaccinations to achieve President Joko Widodo's target of 70 percent vaccinations by the end of 2021.

It will take special steps to expedite vaccinations in areas where the vaccination coverage is below the national average.

Further, Prabowo, the former Banten Police chief, has appealed that Christmas celebrations be held in a virtual format. If carried out physically, the maximum capacity should be capped at 50 percent.

The PeduliLindungi application must be installed in places of worship, he added. Likewise for shopping centers, apart from installing the QR code of the PeduliLindungi application for visitors, vaccinations and quarantine posts must be provided by the management, he said. Tourist attractions have a similar single-gate system in place for vaccinations and quarantine.

Prabowo reiterated the importance of cross-sectoral coordination for preventing an increase in COVID-19 cases during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

"As ordered by the President at the last meeting, preparations for the cases of COVID-19 increasing during Christmas and New Year must be anticipated with joint coordination from all parties,” he emphasized.

Transition from pandemic to endemic phase

In the midst of efforts to coexist with the SARS-CoV-2, a spike in cases in a number of developed countries has set alarm bells ringing in Indonesia to prepare for the worst possible scenario.

Several countries in Europe and US states are preparing to implement lockdowns due to positive cases spiraling upward again in early November 2021.

According to head of the public information bureau of the public relations division of the National Police, Brigadier General Rusdi Hartono, the police, as part of the government, will not stand by and allow a third coronavirus wave to overwhelm Indonesia.

The National Police, as a part of the COVID-19 Handling Task Force, together with the TNI and the government at the central and regional levels, continues to strive to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, he said.

The police force has formulated Enhanced Police Activities (KKYD) to help expedite the national vaccination program to reach the target set by the President.

In order to accelerate national vaccinations, the National Police chief and the TNI commander have traveled frequently around Indonesia to ensure vaccination continuity as part of efforts to achieve herd immunity, he noted.

Police are also strengthening the implementation of restrictions on community activities (PPKM) and the 3Ts (testing, tracing, and treatment), he said. The police force is also reminding the community to always implement the health protocols strictly, he added.

The National Police has been raising awareness and education in areas prone to health protocol violations through KKYD, he said.

As per the Circular Letter of the Task Force for COVID-19 handling Number 20 of 2021 concerning the implementation of health protocols for international travelers undergoing quarantine during the pandemic, the National Police will help monitor, oversee, and take action against health protocols violations by international travelers, he informed.

During a troop roll-call at Ngurah Rai Air Base, Bali on October 23, 2021, the National Police chief asked that residents' comfort while undergoing quarantine be accommodated to minimize unwanted incidents such as people escaping during quarantine.

"Every quarantine area must be ensured to apply strict procedures and follow existing rules," Hartono remarked. 

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