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Jakarta Post

Indonesia’s climate can limit COVID-19, but high mobility exacerbates it: BMKG

  • Alya Nurbaiti

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, April 4, 2020   /   06:19 pm
Indonesia’s climate can limit COVID-19, but high mobility exacerbates it: BMKG Passengers wearing masks wait for a train to arrive at Depok Lama railway station in Depok, West Java, on March 3. (JP/Ricky Yudhistira)

A recent study by the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) reveals that the high temperatures and humidity of Indonesia can, in fact, help curb the spread of COVID-19, but high mobility and extensive social interaction are likely to increase the spread of the virus.

A joint team of researchers from BMKG and the Gadjah Mada University (UGM) Medical School has used modeling, statistical analysis and a literature review to study the impact of climate on COVID-19 transmission.

“The study indicates that weather and climate affect COVID-19 transmission. We advised the President and several ministries about the matter on March 26,” BMKG head Dwikorita Karnawati said in a statement to The Jakarta Post on Friday.

The agency said the findings corroborated studies by Sajadi et al. (2020) and Araujo and Naimi (2020) that found that subtropical countries had a higher level of vulnerability to COVID-19 than tropical countries.

A study by Wang et al. (2020) found that the new coronavirus tended to be more stable at low temperatures and in a dry atmosphere. Such conditions also weakened the human immune system, making it more vulnerable to the virus.

A study by Araujo and Naimi (2020) concludes that tropical climates can curb the spread of the virus as the virus becomes unstable more quickly. Studies by Chen, et al. (2020) and Sajadi, et al. (2020) note that the ideal temperature for the survival of the coronavirus is 8 to 10 °C with 60 to 90 percent humidity.

Indonesia has average temperatures of 27 to 30 °C with 70 to 95 percent humidity. The country’s archipelagic geography may also lessen the spread of the disease.

“According to the literature, Indonesia is not an ideal environment for a COVID-19 outbreak,” Dwikorita said in the statement.

The disease, nonetheless, has made significant inroads in the country. As of Saturday, Indonesia’s confirmed cases had surpassed 2,000 – with 191 fatalities – a month after the first confirmed cases were announced by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on March 2.

Dwikorita added that the outbreak in Indonesia was more likely caused by high human mobility and social interaction.

“If the people’s movement and interaction is well restricted, combined with public health measures to live a healthy lifestyle to increase the body’s immunity, then the temperature and humidity of Indonesia can be a supporting factor in lowering the risk of COVID-19 transmission,” she said.

She asked the general public to remain vigilant as the seasons changed in Indonesia in April and May as dengue fever outbreaks were common in the transitional period.

“We hope that people can take advantage of the weather by doing their activities or exercising at the right time, especially during April until the peak of dry season in August. And don’t forget to maintain physical distancing measures and stay at home,” said Dwikorita, adding that the average temperature in August would be 28 to 32 °C with 60 to 80 percent humidity.