JAKARTA - Indonesia has had its first two deaths from the Omicron variant, while overall coronavirus cases have remained under control since September when it managed to flatten its pandemic curve.
The two patients who died had comorbidities, the health ministry's spokesman Dr Siti Nadia Tarmizi said in a statement Saturday (Jan 22) night.
One was a local transmission case who died in hospital in Ciputat, just outside Jakarta. The other was a traveller who returned from overseas and died in a Jakarta hospital, said the statement.
Dr Nadia told The Straits Times separately: "One was fully vaccinated and the other had not been vaccinated."
The spread of the Omicron variant in Indonesia has continued to intensify since the first case was confirmed on Dec 16. This was soon followed by the first reported case of community transmission on Dec 28 - an asymptomatic man from Medan who visited Jakarta.
On Jan 11, the government said Omicron cases across Indonesia tripled in a week, with about 90 per cent imported.
President Joko Widodo and Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin have repeatedly appealed to Indonesians to suspend their overseas leisure trips.
Most of the Omicron cases were Indonesian nationals and those who have been fully vaccinated, according to the health ministry. The bulk of the travellers who tested positive for Omicron had returned from Turkey, with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia also prominent destinations.
The total cases in Indonesia, including 1,161 Omicron infections, now stand at over 4.2 million, with more than 144,000 deaths.
Since Omicron cases were detected, the government has tightened health protocols, provided more centralised quarantines, stepped up campaigns on the use of telemedicine, and raised the quota of Covid-19 treatment beds in hospitals across the country, said Dr Nadia.
Indonesia has managed to bring under control the latest wave of Covid-19, triggered after Hari Raya in May last year. The seven-day average for cases peaked in mid-July, with 50,000 daily. The number plunged to 1,700 in early October and to less than 200 in late December, before crawling back up to above 1,000 in recent days.
Like in other nations, Omicron in Indonesia has been less severe but is more transmissible, epidemiologist Windhu Purnomo of the University of Airlangga noted.
Many of the infected are asymptomatic or show mild symptoms, and do not report to the authorities or go to a health facility. Dr Windhu told Elshinta radio on Jan 11: "There are so many Omicron cases that have not been detected."