Indonesia will take not less than a yr to succeed in Covid ‘herd immunity’: Minister

Pedestrians walk past a mural depicting Indonesia’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic in Jakarta on August 16, 2020.

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SINGAPORE – Indonesia will take at least a year for a sufficient portion of its population to be immune to Covid-19, the country’s finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati told CNBC, stressing that the government must continue spending to support the economy.

“We see that the pandemic is not easing and we have to remain vigilant,” Sri Mulyani told CNBC on Monday as part of the coverage of the World Economic Forum’s Davos agenda.

Indonesia launched its Covid-19 vaccination program earlier this month after approving the emergency vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech.

Sri Mulyani said conservative estimates by experts showed that it takes Indonesia about 15 months to vaccinate around 180 million people to achieve “herd immunity.” This occurs when enough people in a population develop protection against a disease so that it can no longer easily spread.

We see the pandemic is not easing and we need to remain vigilant.

Sri Mulyani Indrawati

Finance Minister, Indonesia

But President Joko Widodo wants to “speed up” this process to achieve herd immunity within 12 months – which is a “daunting task,” said Sri Mulyani, given the geographic spread of the country. Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago nation with around 250 million inhabitants on thousands of islands.

Meanwhile, Philippine Finance Minister Carlos Dominguez told CNBC – in a separate interview that is also part of the coverage of the Davos Agenda – that his country could vaccinate “the majority of the population” by the end of 2021.

The Philippines are slated to receive their first batch of Covid vaccines next month, Dominguez said. He did not disclose the source of these vaccines, but an Associated Press report said the country was expecting 50,000 doses of China’s Sinovac to be shipped.

Government spending

Indonesia and the Philippines have the highest number of cumulative Covid cases in Southeast Asia, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Indonesia has reported more than 989,200 cumulative infections and over 27,800 deaths. While the Philippines recorded more than 513,600 cases and over 10,200 deaths, Hopkins data showed.

Dominguez said the Philippine government has provided funding for the country’s vaccination program, which is estimated to cost an estimated 82.5 billion Philippine pesos ($ 1.7 billion).

Similarly, Sri Mulyani said Indonesia would prioritize spending on vaccines as well as continued support for low-income households and small businesses. She added that the government had targeted a budget deficit of 5.7% of gross domestic product this year, which is below the previous year’s deficit of 6.1% of GDP.

The Indonesian finance minister said her country weathered the economic blow of the pandemic “relatively well” compared to many countries in the region and the G-20 ethnic group.

The economy is expected to shrink “the deepest” in 2020, around 2.2% before recovering to around 5% growth this year, she added.

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