UNAIR epidemiologist: Mobility restrictions and case finding through testing-tracing are the most important to handle COVID-19

UNAIR NEWS – In recent weeks, the number of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia has increased. According to covid19.go.id, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased by 27,913 on Saturday, July 3, 2021. It is considered far below the actual number of cases because the tracing and testing rates are still low.

A biostatistics-epidemiological expert from Universitas Airlangga (UNAIR) Dr. Windhu Purnomo, dr., MS., said that several factors triggered the sharp increase. One of them was the new virus variant from India called the Delta variant of COVID-19. The Delta variant is 98% more infectious than the original.

“People who pass each other can transmit the virus. In addition, this virus also has the ability to avoid antibodies that have been formed by the body (antibody escape). Therefore, from now on we must wear double masks,” said Windhu.

Windhu said that the increase was the impact of the community’s non-compliance with health protocols. Many people still do not believe in COVID-19, which causes the perception of risk to be low. However, he also said that the government is also responsible for this.

“The government is not assertive with people who violate the health protocols. Both contradictory policies and ongoing mobility collide with the principles of the health protocols. This is because our country is still trying to balance the economy and health. However, the government should be more concerned with health in this pandemic era,” he explained.

From Saturday, July 3, 2021, to Tuesday, July 20, 2021, the government will implement an emergency public activity restriction (PPKM Darurat). According to Windhu, this policy is a good step for the government in responding to the surge of confirmed cases. However, the policy has a shortcoming: the absence of mobility restrictions.

“The government must conduct an evaluation in the first six days after the implementation of the emergency PPKM. If it cannot significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19, the policy must be revised. The correction lies in the mobility restriction,” he said.

Furthermore, Windhu also explained about vaccination which cannot be used as a solution in the near future because the number of vaccines in Indonesia has not reached a third of the population, with the number of vaccinations still at 40 million doses. Meanwhile, Indonesia’s vaccine supply is still dependent on foreign countries.

He explained that the most important thing the government should do is to increase the tracing and testing rate, limit mobility, and discipline the public to follow the health protocols. Indonesia has Infectious Disease Epidemic Law and Health Quarantine Law. Both laws must be implemented.

“In the law, there is an article which states that those who hinder the handling of the pandemic can get criminal sanctions. Don’t hesitate to punish violators of the health protocols. However, the public must be educated first because they cannot punish arbitrarily,” said the biostatistics-epidemiological expert.

In the end, he said, universities must become science-based promoters. Universities must be able to convince the government and the public that the handling of the pandemic must be based on science and data. Then, universities help with research in any field to deal with the pandemic and through community service. (*)

Author: Alysa Intan Santika
Editor: Nuri Hermawan (YA/AP)