Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo is optimistic that the COVID-19 pandemic will end in July as long as people comply with large-scale social distancing (PSBB) measures.
Jakarta, the country’s capital city, and other regions such as West Java, Banten, and West Sumatera have enforced PSBB in a bid to contain the COVID-19 infection rates, part of which has seen a ban on mass gatherings and restriction on the people’s mobility.
Several experts are working on providing estimates on the end of the pandemic.
However, director of research agency Eijkman Institution Professor Amin Subandrio, in a COVID-19 related discussion on Wednesday (24 April), said: “It is not about when the peak will be. The most important thing is how high the pandemic peak will be.”
He referred to a prediction that the peak of the pandemic in the country will take place in the next two or three weeks, with the estimated numbers of cases reaching 100,000.
As of Thursday (23 April), Indonesia has recorded 7,775 confirmed cases with 960 cases in recovery and 647 deaths.
Some suspect that the actual numbers of COVID-19 cases could be higher than the official figure, due to data discrepancy from the central government and regional administrations, as well as a lack of access to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing.
No fixed predictions about the end of the COVID-19
Sutanto Sastraredja, a lecturer at Mathematics and Science Studies at Sebelas Maret University (UNS), Solo, Central Java, has mapped the COVID-19 affected population using a method called SIQR.
S means Susceptible, describing healthy people prone to the infection. Infected is for infected people. Q means the quarantine process, while R represents cases in recovery.
The SIQR model will be analysed using the Runge-Kutta Order 4 numeric, which will produce a graphic.
The pace of infection in healthy people is affected by the frequency of contact. It means that the more often people have contacts and gather, the more possible it is for them to be infected, Professor Sutanto said.
If there is no change in the pace and intensity of mitigation efforts, the peak of infection will take place in mid-May 2020 and end in June 2020, he added.
Mathematician Professor Eric Forgoston at Montclair State University similarly explained that whether the pandemic will end sooner or later will depend on many factors such as control measures and how people comply with them.
“The mathematical models that we have do allow us to make predictions on when epidemics will end but a lot depends on the control measures that are in place.
“We can put these effects into the models and determine things like if you implement this type of policy then this the resulting effect and this is the decline and the severity of the epidemic.
“However, there is a difference between a government putting a control measure into place and people actually abiding by that control measure.
“There could possibly be a bit of disconnect between what a model is predicting and what actually happens in real-time,” the professor told a TOC correspondent in Jakarta during a Newswise expert panel on 2 April.
Professor Forgoston also cautioned people not to panic when they hear predictions that millions of people will die from the virus, as the figures are from different mathematical models.
“I think the public needs to be cautious when they hear predictive values being thrown around, such as one million individuals are going to die or two hundred thousand people are going to die.
“You have to realize that these numbers are coming from different models. Every model will give you a different answer and there is a lot of uncertainty in the parameter values that go into these models.
“There is a lot of value in them but we shouldn’t just pick on just one number and run with it. They give us a range of possibilities that allow us to say something meaningful.”
How other ASEAN nations are dealing with the COVID-19
Similar to parts of Indonesia, neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia have also imposed nationwide safe distancing measures aimed at flattening the infection’s curve. The former has decided to extend its circuit breaker for another four weeks.
In a televised address on 21 April, Mr Lee noted that while the majority of Singaporeans and residents have been complying with the measures, the total number of cases have “risen sharply” since the onset of the outbreak in Singapore.
The majority of the spike in cases, he said, stemmed from clusters formed in migrant worker dormitories.
Despite the spike in cases from the migrant worker dormitories’ clusters, Mr Lee said that the clusters “have not spread to the wider community”.
COVID-19 tests on migrant workers residing in dormitories have been conducted aggressively not only for those who are visibly symptomatic, but also for those who appear well and asymptomatic, said Mr Lee.
“Almost all the migrant workers infected have only mild symptoms. This is not surprising as they are generally young, and thus much less likely to become seriously ill with COVID-19,” he added.
“It is early days yet, but thankfully, so far none of the new cases of migrant workers have needed supplemental oxygen, or intensive care,” Mr Lee added.
As of Thursday (23 April), Singapore has recorded 11,178 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Similarly, Malaysia will again extend its Movement Control Order (MCO) — this time until 12 May.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in a televised address on Thursday evening (23 April) said that while Malaysia has recorded positive COVID-19 trends recently, the government will not rule out the possibility of another extension beyond 12 May.
“You might not be able to celebrate Hari Raya in your hometowns, and you might not be allowed to go back to your workplaces except for those in the permitted sectors,” he said.
Muhyiddin noted that 3,542 COVID-19 patients — or 63.2 per cent of the total number of patients — have recovered.
The government will take into account the prospect of relaxing MCO regulations progressively for several sectors — including social sectors — if cases continue to decrease sharply, he added.
“The government may consider a one-time journey for Malaysians who have gone back to their hometowns before the MCO was enforced in order to allow them to return to their homes.
“As this would involve a big number of people, the government is gathering data and studying the best methods to allow this movement,” said Muhyiddin.
As of Thursday, Malaysia has recorded 5,603 confirmed COVID-19 cases.