On Friday 10th June 2022, Bali’s Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin held a press conference to announce the news that there was a new variant of Covid-19 spreading in Bali. He said that four cases of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 were detected in Bali for the first time in May.
He told the public ‘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’.
Sadikin went on to say that the new variants of Covid-19 were detected through genome sequencing from a blood test taken by a positive patient. He also stated how there was no need to worry about the latest data regarding transmission as the caseloads remain low and clinically ‘under control’. He echoed sentiments from the local Covid-19 Task Force who were renewing efforts to get as many people as possible vaccinated in Bali.
Understandably, news of a new Covid-19 variant in Bali was a cause for concern for many people. On 14th June, the Head of the Bali Health Office, Dr. I Nyoman Gede Anom, released a statement to clarify the facts around the new variant, how those cases came to be in Bali and how the situation was handled by the authorities.
Dr. I Nyoman Gede Anom confirmed that there were four positive cases of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 detected in Bali in late May. He said that the individuals were all attendees of the UN’s 7th Global Platform For Disaster Risk Reduction that was held in Nusa Dua from 23-28th May. The event welcomed government delegations and industry leaders from every country in the world.
Dr. Anom confirmed that regular PCR testing was being carried out throughout the event. He stated that during the conference there were 22 positive cases (of unknown variants) and those people were identified and isolated as soon as possible. Contact tracing was then used to track the people they were in close contact with to ensure that those people were tested too.
Of those 22 positive cases, 4 people were infected with Omicron BA.4 and BA.5. Dr. Anom said that the four cases of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5. were found in three foreigners and one Indonesian citizen. This. variant was only confirmed by the results of the genome sequencing sent to Indonesia’s Ministry of Health on 9th June 2022 which was when Bali’s Health Minister released a statement to the press.
At this point, the four people who had tested positive with Omicron BA.4 and BA.5. and the 18 other people who had already completed their 5-day isolation period, had tested negative and flown home after the conference.
Dr. Anom went on to say that the positive cases of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5. ‘all had mild symptoms and are now recovering. I still urge residents to be vigilant and do booster’ vaccines. As the Head of the Bali Health Office, Dr. Anom said that he hoped that 80% of Balinese residents would be fully vaccinated by the time the G20 Summit opens in Bali in November.
The UN’s 7th Global Platform For Disaster Risk Reduction was something of a trial run for Bali. Although the conference is of the utmost importance to international relations, the size and scale of the event are much smaller than the G20.
Authorities in Bali used the event to help refine the systems and operations needed to ensure that the G20 Summit does not cause a spike in Covid-19 within conference delegations and the wider community.
As PCR tests have been scrapped for fully vaccinated travelers to Indonesia, more people are arriving and more people are moving around the island, there could be fluctuations in caseloads in the coming weeks while the overall data remains in decline.
Dr. Anom ended his statement by saying ‘Since the incident in May until now, cases are still declining. There was no significant spike from May to June after the [new Omicron] case was discovered’.
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