© Reuters. In Bekasi, Indonesia, schools are reopening after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak
JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia has recorded its first cases of a highly infectious variant of COVID-19, which was first discovered in India, the health minister said Monday as authorities begged people not to travel to their hometowns at the end of the Muslim month of fasting .
Indonesia, which has tried to contain one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in Asia, last month stopped issuing visas to foreigners who have been in India in the past 14 days.
The two cases of the Indian variant known as B.1.617 were found in Jakarta, while the minister said that a variant first discovered in South Africa was also discovered in Bali.
“We have to contain these cases as long as there are only a few,” said Budi Gunadi Sadikin at a virtual conference.
Scientists are investigating whether variant B.1.617 is responsible for the devastating second wave of infections in India.
The variant has now reached at least 17 countries, including the UK, Switzerland and Iran, causing some governments to close their borders to people traveling from India.
Authorities in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, have also banned the traditional mass exodus, where people visit relatives for a second year for the Eid al-Fitr festival to curb the transmission of COVID-19.
“Don’t go back to your hometown. Don’t go on vacation in your hometown. Be patient,” Doni Monardo, head of the Indonesian COVID-19 task force, told the same press conference.
Indonesia has reported more than 1.67 million viral infections and 45,700 deaths since the pandemic began, although cases have decreased since the peak in January.
Still, the positivity rate, or percentage of people tested who were found to have the disease, averaged more than 12% for the last month. The World Health Organization views positivity rates above 5% as worrying.
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