The Jakarta Post
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has warned of a second COVID-19 wave as the number of new cases continued to soar over the past few days, following the loosening of large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) in some regions.
However, experts say the government’s warning of a second wave is premature since the first one has yet to reach its peak nationally.
“I remind you that our large task is not over, conditions are still dynamic,” the President said during a visit to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) office in East Jakarta on Wednesday. “Don’t let a second wave happen. Don’t let the cases surge.”
He added that regions should not ease restrictions without thorough evaluation.
“The timing [of easing restrictions] is very important, it must be precise,” he said.
Epidemiologist Panji Hadisoemarto from Padjadjaran University in Bandung, West Java, however, said such warnings were besides the point.
“I think it is more appropriate to warn that we are under the threat of a case rebound in the first wave,” Panji told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
The Health Ministry has recorded a consistent spike of new COVID-19 cases in the past five days, starting with an unprecedented 993 new cases last Saturday, when the total number across the country reached 30,000, a day after the PSBB was eased in Jakarta.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the number of daily confirmed new cases surpassed 1,000 for the first time since the outbreak started.
Read also: COVID-19: What a second wave might look like
Announcing the PSBB easing last week, Governor Anies Baswedan claimed that the curves of new cases and deaths in Jakarta had reached its peak in April. After a relatively low rate in late May, the numbers recently went back up, with 232 new cases recorded on Tuesday.
Panji said he needed to check whether Jakarta had entered the second wave but he explained that a region, theoretically, could only see a new wave after reaching the bottom of the epidemiological curve, at the point where the first wave started.
The expectation of a single peak day to determine when the wave has turned might not be met given the lack of testing capacity that has frequently led to a backlog in laboratories.
The Health Ministry’s disease control and prevention director general, Achmad Yurianto, has claimed that the record high numbers followed more “aggressive” contact tracing conducted by the central government.
However, although the number of specimens tested daily has surpassed the target of 10,000, the number of people tested daily has remained low, with 5,825 people tested on Wednesday.
The average number of people tested in the past week has also trended downward, even as the average number of new cases rise.
According to the official government count, Indonesia has recorded 34,316 confirmed cases with 1,959 fatalities and 12,129 recoveries as of Wednesday.