UGM Epidemiologist Values Easing Mask Rules Is Right

YOGYAKARTA - Gadjah Mada University (UGM) Epidemiologist Dr Riris Andono Ahmad assessed that the government's policy to loosen the rules for wearing masks was appropriate because currently the risk of COVID-19 transmission in Indonesia has decreased.

"Even though we now know that herd immunity will not occur, the more people in the population who have immunity, the lower the risk of transmission. Indonesia is currently in such a situation," said Riris Andono, quoted by Antara, Wednesday, May 18.

According to him, there are two things that have triggered the current high level of public immunity in Indonesia, namely the successful Omicron wave and the increasing coverage of COVID-19 vaccinations.

"This is the reason why in a situation like this, even without wearing a mask, the risk of transmission will not increase rapidly," he said.

However, said Riris, the rules for wearing masks need to be tightened again if a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 appears that has the potential to trigger a large wave of COVID-19 in the country.

In addition, the easing needs to be reviewed when the level of immunity in the population is considered to have decreased significantly considering that immunity from the COVID-19 vaccine only lasts about four to six months.

"If we see that there is a significant increase in cases and then there is a new variant because the level of immunity in the population has decreased quite a lot, say more than six months from now, we have to be even more vigilant," he said.

According to him, the easing of the rules for wearing masks announced by President Jokowi needs to be followed by continuous communication regarding the risk of COVID-19 transmission so that the public understands that the pandemic is not over.

In addition, the stipulation that masks can only be removed when in an open space and when not in a crowd also needs to be emphasized.

"This is not the end of a pandemic. This is only a situation when it is safe. This needs to be added when the policy is made," said Riris Andono Ahmad.

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