Ryan Dagur, Jakarta – Timor-Leste has stepped up efforts to seal its border with neighboring Indonesia to prevent the entry of the Covid-19 Delta strain, a variant the country's top churchman described as "one of the greatest threats to the world."
Border Patrol commander Euclides Belo told the government news agency Tatoli on July 6 that the national police were working with their Indonesian counterparts to ensure people do not bring the Delta across the frontier from Indonesia's East Nusa Tenggara province.
He said they had asked people living near the border to report anyone trying to enter the country illegally and vowed strict action would be taken against them.
The Delta variant, first detected in India, has sparked a major crisis in Indonesia, where the number of infections has skyrocketed, overwhelming many health facilities.
The Indonesian government has implemented an emergency lockdown on Java and Bali islands until July 20, while local authorities elsewhere in the country have also implemented strict social restrictions.
Over the past two weeks, Indonesia has recorded 326,905 new cases and 61,868 deaths.
According to Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the coordinating minister for maritime affairs and investment in charge of implementing the new lockdown, the Delta variant accounts for 90 percent of the Covid-19 cases in Jakarta.
Warning of the threat the variant poses to Timor-Leste, Archbishop Virgilio Do Carmo Da Silva of Dili said the government "must take maximum steps to prevent this great threat to the world from gaining a foothold in the country."
"Considering the alarming number of new cases in Indonesia per day due to this variant, strengthening border controls is a must," he said.
He also called on the government to speed up its vaccination campaign.
So far 218,601 people out of a population of 1.3 million have received their first dose and about 26,360 have received their second. "Vaccination is key to increasing our immunity," the archbishop said.
Timor-Leste has recorded a total of 9,594 cases, with 887 currently active, and 25 deaths. Daily infections have decreased over the past month, with an average of 50 cases now compared with 200 in May.