JAKARTA – Indonesian President Joko Widodo urged people to stick to health protocols and ensure they are vaccinated against COVID-19, after the world’s fourth most populous country detected its first domestic case of the Omicron variant.
Jokowi, as the president is known, said the arrival of the highly transmissible variant, which has been reported in more than 70 countries, had been inevitable and warned the public against being complacent while less stringent measures were in place.
“I ask people who have not received the vaccine twice, immediately go to a health facility and get the vaccine,” he said in a livestreamed address.
“Even though the domestic situation is close to normal, don’t slack off implementing health protocols.”
The variant was detected on Wednesday evening in an employee of the Wisma Atlet hospital in Jakarta, who had overseas travel history.
Indonesia has recorded more than 4.2 million cases of the coronavirus and 143,000 deaths from COVID-19, but daily cases have fallen dramatically since the middle of this year and many restrictions have been eased.
Health minister, Budi Gunadi Sadikin, said there was so far no known community transmission, but there were five suspected Omicron cases.
Those included two Indonesians who had recently returned from the United States and from Britain, and three Chinese nationals currently in quarantine.
Authorities were awaiting genomic sequencing to determine if those were the Omicron variant.
About 38% of Indonesia’s population of about 270 million have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Omicron variant was first detected in South Africa and Hong Kong last month. Indonesia’s neighbours, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines have also reported Omicron cases, mostly imported.
Preliminary evidence indicates that COVID-19 vaccines may be less effective against the variant, which also carries a higher risk of re-infection, the World Health Organization said.