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Healthy holidays

Jakarta Post Editorial - December 16, 2023

Jakarta – It is that time of the year again. The time of watery weather and all that it induces: seasonal illnesses and natural disasters like flooding and landslides, the usual suspects.

But it is also the holiday season. Christmas is around the corner, and New Year will come after.

This is the time again to get busy spending quality and laidback time with family and friends. Alas, in the post-COVID-19 world, health threats remain, despite the vacationing mood.

It is safe to say that the holiday season, coupled with Indonesia's seasonal cycle, boosts the risk of health hazards, but we digress.

On the people movement side, the government is already preparing to face an influx of travelers during the upcoming holiday as millions are expected to pack the roads and cities across the archipelago through to the end of the year.

According to a recent survey by the Transportation Ministry, 107 million people, or 40 percent of the country's population, are planning to travel during this Christmas and New Year holiday. Around 40 million of them will drive cars, while 20 million others will ride motorbikes, according to the data. Close to half, around 45 percent, of the holidaymakers are expected to visit popular tourist destinations, such as Yogyakarta, Bandung in West Java and the island of gods Bali.

The number is double last year's figure, although it has yet to rival pre-pandemic level, according to the ministry.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has also warned of the potential for flooding hazards in several provinces during the year-end holiday, as the country has entered the rainy season.

Last month, heavy rains caused flooding in several regions including Aceh, North Sumatra, Riau Islands and West Kalimantan. Needless to say, news of flooding in Jakarta is bound to come.

At the same time, the Health Ministry has urged greater vigilance amid a recent uptick in cases of new COVID-19 subvariants, both in the country and around the globe.

According to data from the ministry, there were 1,499 active COVID-19 cases detected by health authorities as of Thursday, with 359 new cases on the same day. The ministry also recorded five deaths caused by COVID-19 since last week

EG.5, informally dubbed "Eris", and EG.2 have become the dominant Omicron subvariants in Indonesia. EG.5 infections show symptoms similar to those of other subvariants, including fever, fatigue, a runny nose and sore throat.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said there is no evidence so far that EG.5 caused more severe symptoms but noted that a more comprehensive risk evaluation on emerging EG.5 sublineages like HK.3 and HV.1 was needed.

We would like to reiterate the government's advice that people who are not feeling well as well as the elderly to wear masks, and that anyone with symptoms should see a doctor or other health workers.

The Health Ministry has also urged people to postpone traveling to countries currently experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Since it was first reported to the WHO in February, EG.5 has spread to more than 90 countries including China, the United States and Singapore. The Omicron subvariant currently makes up slightly over half of the COVID-19 variants circulating globally due to its immune escape properties, or its ability to evade the human body's immune system.

Earlier this month, the Singaporean health authorities advised vigilance after the island state saw the number of estimated COVID-19 infections double to some 22,000 in the week from Nov. 19 to 25, compared with an estimated 10,700 cases the week prior.

Our other close neighbor Malaysia recorded a 57 percent increase in its weekly caseload during the final week of November, from some 2,300 cases the previous week, with the majority of cases experiencing only mild symptoms.

Be advised that ??the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport's health office is gearing up to reimpose COVID-19 health protocols due to the soaring number of cases in the neighboring countries. Passengers will be urged to wear masks and maintain personal hygiene at the airport to prevent transmission.

It is going to be colder and wetter in the archipelago in the coming few weeks, but it is also going to be warmer as we spend more time with our loved ones.

We wish you a joyous holiday and hope you and your family stay healthy and safe.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2023/12/16/healthy-holidays.htm