Indonesia reports first case of Omicron variant

The case was detected on Nov 15, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA - Indonesia has detected its first case of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in a hospital cleaner who had no history of overseas travel, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin  said on Thursday (Dec 16).

The variant was identified on Wednesday evening in samples from the cleaner who works at Jakarta’s Wisma Atlet hospital, which treats Covid-19 patients.

“Three cleaning service workers at the Wisma Atlet hospital had tested positive with the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests, but only one person was identified with Omicron,” Mr Budi said in a virtual press briefing. 

He said the cleaners showed no symptoms and were quarantined at the hospital.

The minister added that there was no community transmission of Omicron so far, although there were another five suspected cases.

They are two Indonesians who came back from the United Kingdom and the United States and are now under quarantine at the Wisma Atlet hospital, as well as three Chinese visitors who are quarantined in Manado, North Sulawesi. 

Their samples are still being re-examined through whole genome sequencing and  the result is expected to be out soon.

More countries are seeing cases of Omicron, which the World Health Organisation has described as posing a high risk. It was declared a variant of concern on Nov 24.

Indonesia has temporarily banned the entry of foreigners who have been to any of 10 African countries including South Africa, or Hong Kong. 

However, Indonesians returning from these countries and Hong Kong are still allowed entry with a 14-day mandatory quarantine. 

As another  precaution, authorities also extended the quarantine period for international arrivals from other areas to 10 days, up from seven days.

Epidemiologist Dicky Budiman of Griffith University suggested that at least 2 to 5 per cent of the  positive cases each month be examined for Omicron through whole genome sequencing.

“This will ensure that cases (of the Omicron variant) can be found quickly so that tracing and other procedures, including isolation and quarantine, can also be carried out immediately.” 

Indonesia reported 213 new Covid-19 cases and 10 deaths on Thursday, bringing the overall infections and fatalities to 4.26 million and 143,979 respectively. 

The number of cases has gradually declined after the second wave of coronavirus - driven by the spread of the Delta variant and massive exodus around Hari Raya Aidilfitri - hit the country with new daily cases peaking above 56,000 in mid-July.

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