Jakarta may pull ‘emergency brake’ on eased restrictions

People wearing protective face masks attend mass on the first day of the reopening of a church after government restrictions were eased, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 12, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 14 July 2020

Jakarta may pull ‘emergency brake’ on eased restrictions

  • Jakarta and East Java are the two provinces most affected by the outbreak of coronavirus

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Monday urged officials to step up testing, tracing, and treatment of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the country’s worst-hit provinces.

The move followed an uptick in virus infections in the capital Jakarta and the emergence of new clusters in two military schools in West Java.

“Our main concern is to ensure that testing, tracing, and treatment remain a priority,” Widodo said during a Cabinet meeting.

And the governor of Jakarta warned that authorities could “pull the emergency brake” on easing restrictions if the number of cases in the city continued to rise.

Indonesia reported 1,282 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing the national total to 76,981, with 3,656 deaths. Jakarta and East Java are the two provinces most affected by the outbreak with overall cases of 14,979 and 16,877, respectively.

On Sunday, Jakarta recorded its highest one-day spike with 404 new confirmed cases, it being the third time the city had declared a record spike of cases in the space of a week.

Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan said that although the surge was a result of ramped up active case findings, it was also a warning to city residents who had resumed business and social activities after restrictions were eased in compliance with health protocols.

The governor added that since the beginning of June, the positivity rate of conducting 1,000 tests per 1 million of the population per week in the city had been consistently below 5 percent, as per the World Health Organization’s requirements to reopen the economy.

Sunday’s positivity rate doubled to 10.5 percent, with 66 percent of those confirmed with COVID-19 being asymptomatic.

“This is why we have to be really careful. We should not take this lightly. Do not think that we are free from the pandemic,” Baswedan said in a statement on the administration’s official YouTube channel.

“If this situation continues, we may have to pull the emergency brake policy and ... halt again all economic, religious, and social activities.”

Baswedan has extended the transition phase of large-scale social restrictions in the city until July 16.

“Given the current situation, I would suggest that we freeze the easing of restriction at the current condition and we do not move to the next transition phase to relax more restrictions,” Pandu Riono, an epidemiologist at the University of Indonesia told Arab News.

He said that based on modeling conducted by the university, infection rates in the country would continue to spike until October with 4,000 confirmed cases in a day, but also cautioned that the crisis might not be over until the end of the year.

“It is difficult to make any estimation with so many uncertain variables,” he added.

Jakarta has one of the highest polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing rates in the country with at least 26,527 people tested per 1 million of population. In contrast, the national testing rate is 3,394 tests per 1 million people, according to Achmad Yurianto, spokesman for the national COVID-19 task force.

Two military schools in West Java have emerged as new clusters with more than 1,300 positive cases detected among cadets. Some of their family members were also confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 during the past week after two cadets tested positive while seeking medical treatment for unrelated sickness.

During a visit to the schools last week Army Chief of Staff Gen. Andika Perkasa said that most of the infected cadets were asymptomatic.

Riono said: “The problem is not about strict social-distancing measures. It lies with people not complying to health protocols, and they do not seem to understand the situation remains risky. Maybe because we have been addressing the situation incorrectly with the new-normal term, so people think that we are back in the normal situation.”

Yurianto said that the term was misleading, and the government would instead use the phrase “adapting new habits” to prevent the public from misunderstanding the situation in which the outbreak continued to spread.


Russia aims to produce ‘millions’ of virus doses by 2021

Updated 03 August 2020

Russia aims to produce ‘millions’ of virus doses by 2021

  • The Gamaleya institute came under fire after researchers and directors injected themselves with the prototype months ago
  • Scientists have told AFP that Russia will struggle to adapt the vaccine to mass production because the country lacks raw materials, adequate facilities and experience

MOSCOW: Russia said Monday it aims to launch mass production of a coronavirus vaccine next month and turn out “several million” doses per month by next year.
The country is pushing ahead with several vaccine prototypes and one prepared at the Gamaleya institute in Moscow has reached advanced stages of development.
“We are very much counting on starting mass production in September,” industry minister Denis Manturov said in an interview published by TASS news agency.
“We will be able to ensure production volumes of several hundred thousand a month, with an eventual increase to several million by the start of next year,” he said, adding that one developer is preparing production technology at three locations in central Russia.
Health Minister Mikhail Murashko on Saturday said the Gamaleya vaccine had “completed clinical trials” and that documents were being prepared to register it with the state.
Another vaccine, developed by Siberia-based Vektor lab, is currently undergoing clinical trials and two more will begin human testing within the next two months, Murashko said.
Gamaleya’s vaccine is a so-called viral vector vaccine, meaning it employs another virus to carry the DNA encoding of the needed immune response into cells.
Gamaleya’s vaccine employs the adenovirus, a similar technology to the coronavirus vaccine prototype developed by China’s CanSino, currently in the advanced stage of clinical trials.
The Gamaleya institute came under fire after researchers and directors injected themselves with the prototype months ago, with specialists criticizing the move as an unorthodox and rushed way of starting human trials.
Scientists have told AFP that Russia will struggle to adapt the vaccine to mass production because the country lacks raw materials, adequate facilities and experience, particularly with advanced technology like viral vector.
Some Russian officials have boasted that the country will be the first to come up with the vaccine, even comparing it to the space race to produce the first satellite in the Soviet era.
Moscow has dismissed allegations from the UK, the United States and Canada that a hacking group linked to Russian intelligence services tried to steal information about a coronavirus vaccine from labs in the West.
Russia’s coronavirus caseload is currently fourth in the world after the United States, Brazil and India.