Indonesia’s Ministry of Health held a press conference on Friday 10th June 2022 to confirm the discovery of four cases of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 in Bali for the first time.
Speaking to local media, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said that ‘Currently variants under monitoring, that are actively circulating include Omicron BA.4 and BA.5. This variant has triggered an increase in cases in Europe, America, and Asia. It has now been found in Bali, with four people affected’.
Omicron BA.4 and BA. 5 are subvariants of the Covid-19 virus and can be characterized by their ability to evade immunity built up by the vaccine. This means that they are highly transmissible. According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Stealth Omicron is the common name for subvariant BA.2.12.1. is the most relevant variant in the world at this moment.
The newly detected subvariants Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 currently make up 7% of all known Covid-19 cases worldwide.
Health Minister Sadikin was able to confirm for the first time that cases of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 were tested for in Bali in late May 2022. The confirmation of the genome sequencing of the positive blood tests was received by Indonesia’s Ministry of Health on 9th June 2022. The Minister went on to confirm that the recent spike in cases across Indonesia ‘has nothing to do with the easing during the holiday. It comes from a new variant’.
Caseloads in Bali have been in consistent decline for a few weeks despite the presence of the new variants. Across Indonesia data shows that there has been a 31% increase in cases over the last three weeks. Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world and is made up of over 17,000 islands.
Looking at Covid-19 data from a nationwide perspective is important but not always the most helpful context. Looking at data for each island or province gives a more accurate picture of what is happening. This means authorities and communities can make informed choices about the next steps for keeping transmission rates low.
The World Health Organisation has two criteria points that must be reached before health authorities can declare that an outbreak is under control. Firstly is the proportion of people who test positive out of the total number who have been tested, the positivity rate.
The second is the rate of transmission. For both Bali as a province and Indonesia as a country, both of these criteria are being met. This means that despite the detection of these new subvariants, Covid-19 remains clinically under control in Bali.
In light of this Health Minister Sadikin was able to confirm to the public that there was no need to worry about this latest announcement. He urged the public to get vaccinated. He said “The most important aspect now is the booster vaccine (the third dose of vaccine). If you are in a crowded room, then try to keep wearing a mask’.
This week the central government moved Bali to PPKM Level One. This restriction enables the retail sector to operate at 100% capacity. Cafes, restaurants, event venues, places of worship, gyms, and tourist attractions may only operate at 75% of their total capacity. People must wear masks in indoor public settings and on public transport.
The Head of the Bali Covid-19 Task Force spoke to the island earlier this week to urge people to not slack off as caseloads continue to fall. He encouraged people to keep up with sanitizing practices and to get their booster vaccines. At present Bali is still moving in the right direction. Authorities are all in agreement that now is a critical moment and that a united effort will help keep transmission rates low.
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