Have we learned anything?: Indonesia reports COVID-19 clusters from over 1,000 schools

File photo of children in school during the pandemic in Jakarta. Photo: Jakarta Education Board
File photo of children in school during the pandemic in Jakarta. Photo: Jakarta Education Board

COVID-19 clusters have been detected in over 1,000 Indonesian schools, a study by the Education Ministry showed, validating health experts’ previous concerns about the government’s insistence on resuming face-to-face learning in school.

According to the ministry’s survey of 46,500 schools nationwide, since limited face-to-face learning was launched in July, 1,296 schools have self-reported COVID-19 cases as of Sept. 20.

“There were transmissions in 2.8 percent of schools that reported [test results],” the ministry’s early childhood, basic and secondary education director general Jumeri said.

Elementary schools make up nearly half of the figure with 581 clusters, wherein 3,174 teaching staff and 6,908 students have tested positive. In Indonesia, children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

It must be noted that the ministry’s study represents a rough estimate, as there has been no widespread testing and tracing conducted uniformly across schools in Indonesia ever since they reopened this academic year.

Separate to this study, COVID-19 clusters have also been recently identified in schools across Central Java, prompting the region’s lawmakers to call for the suspension of face-to-face learning while schools are ill-equipped to observe standard health protocols.

In Jakarta, meanwhile, the province’s Health Agency has not yet been able to confirm the Education Ministry’s finding that COVID-19 clusters emerged out of 25 schools in the capital.

As of now, the ministry says there are no plans to halt face-to-face learning, saying that it’s committed to providing COVID-19-free environments for teachers and students. Sticking to its long-held stance, the ministry believes that limitations with remote learning and children being away from school for extended periods may prove detrimental to their overall well-being.

And as Indonesia’s caseload continues to plunge since the height of the latest COVID-19 wave in July, the Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) said the emergence of school clusters is concerning and could result in hospital wards being filled with children.

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