The head of Indonesia's COVID-19 task force has set an ambitious deadline by which Indonesia is to completely be rid of the coronavirus, with the targeted date falling on the country's Independence Day.
"Our target is the upcoming August 17 celebration, so we really have to be free of COVID-19. This means that COVID-19 is in a controllable position," Doni Monardo, who only recently recovered from the viral disease, said in a meeting broadcasted live on Sunday.
Doni said he was optimistic about this target after considering the decreasing number of active COVID-19 cases.
"One week ago, our active cases were around 176,000, be it people without symptoms, mild, moderate, severe symptoms, and even critical. But, from a recent task force data, the active cases had decreased by 15,000 people within one week. This means that there are positive things that have been done by all parties," he said.
According to Doni, the Aug. 17 target is achievable as long as the public comply with existing regulations, such as the "Micro" PPKM (Enforcement of Restrictions on Public Activities) and the 5M health protocol – consisting of wearing face masks, washing hands with soap and running water, maintaining physical distance, avoiding crowds, and limiting mobilizations and interactions.
Not everybody is as optimistic. Windhu Purnomo, an epidemiologist from the Airlangga University in Surabaya, said that government policies to curb the spread of the coronavirus have been predicted to fail from the get-go. For example, experts predicted that PPKM was going to be ineffective because the restrictions were looser compared to those under the Large-Scale Social Restrictions (PSBB) imposed in the earlier days of the COVID-19 pandemic in Indonesia.
Windhu also said that the recent decline in daily cases were due to lower testing rates. "We are very weak in testing and tracing. If the detection is low, higher transmissions will occur beneath the surface. This is a time bomb," Windhu said.
As for ending the pandemic by way of mass vaccination, Windhu said there is little chance that the country will be COVID-19-free any time soon at the current rate it's vaccinating people.
"If we keep this up, that is 60 thousand [vaccine doses injected per day], we will only [reach herd immunity] in at least 10 years."
According to Windhu, the government must increase daily vaccinations to 1 million doses per day in order to reach the national COVID-19 vaccination target in one year.