Indonesia reports first case of 'Eek' mutation

JAKARTA : Indonesia has reported its first case of a more transmissible new variant of the coronavirus known for reducing vaccine protection, but the government said yesterday vaccines being used in the country could withstand the mutation.

The new variant contains the E484K mutation found in variants first identified in South Africa and Brazil.

It is nicknamed "Eek" by some scientists for its apparent ability to evade natural immunity from previous Covid-19 infection and to reduce protection from current vaccines.

Dr Siti Nadia Tarmizi, a senior Health Ministry official, said yesterday that the one variant case had recovered and did not infect close contacts, adding that the vaccines available in Indonesia could withstand the mutation.

However, deputy director for fundamental research Herawati Sudoyo at the government-funded Eijkman Institute, which specialises in medical molecular biology and biotechnology, said the vaccines' ability to withstand the mutation had yet to be determined.

The first case of the variant comes as the country prepares for a reduced supply of Covid-19 vaccines due to export curbs of AstraZeneca's shot imposed by manufacturer India to prioritise domestic supplies.

Indonesia's Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said on Monday that only 20 million of the 30 million doses it had ordered for a March-April delivery were available due to the export curbs. With around 1.54 million cases and 41,900 deaths so far, Indonesia has the highest caseload in South-east Asia and one of the worst epidemics in Asia. - REUTERS