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Indonesia records lowest rate of positive coronavirus tests

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By Stanley Widianto

JAKARTA (Reuters) Indonesia’s daily coronavirus positivity rate fell below the World Health Organization (WHO) benchmark of 5% this week for the first time, an indicator that the devastating second wave of the country could subside.

The positivity rate, or the proportion of people tested who are positive, peaked at 33.4% in July when Indonesia became the epicenter of the coronavirus in Asia, driven by the highly contagious Delta variant.

On Monday, that rate fell to 4.57%, the lowest since March 2020, when the first Indonesian cases were reported, according to the independent Kawal COVID-19 data initiative.

A rate above 5% indicates that the coronvirus is out of control, according to the WHO.

Kawal co-founder Elina Ciptadi said the trend was a good sign, although she warned official data could not capture a shortage of underreported cases and deaths.

Overall, what we are seeing is encouraging, she said.

Since its peak in July, the average positivity rate has steadily declined from 23.8% in the first week of August to 11.3% in the last week of this month, to 6.2% on average so far. in September.

Coronavirus restrictions were eased further on Monday, as most areas of the island of Java were decommissioned, allowing conditional operation of shopping malls, factories and restaurants.

But President Joko Widodo urged Indonesians not to be complacent.

People need to realize that COVID is still hiding, he said. When our guards are down, (cases) can increase again.

Epidemiologist Dicky Budiman of Australian University Griffith said testing and tracing efforts remain weak.

I am both happy and worried about the decline, he said. There have been government efforts, but not strong enough to get us out of the crisis period, he said, adding that the improvements were mostly in the big cities.

Weekly data from the Ministry of Health last week shows several provinces still register high positivity rates, with Aceh at 17.4% and North Kalimantan at 16.7%.

COVID-19 task force spokesperson Wiku Adisasmito said the government will continue to improve its testing and tracing capabilities.

Hopefully this good condition can be maintained, he added.

(Reporting by Stanley Widianto; Editing by Martin Petty)

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