A mutated coronavirus strain said to be 10 times more infectious has reportedly been detected in Indonesia following a surge in cases.
The country recorded 6166 new infections over the weekend, 3308 of which were confirmed on Saturday. The capital Jakarta saw a record daily increase of more than 1000 cases on Sunday, which the local government linked to a large public event in mid-August.
Indonesian scientist Herawati Sudoyo, a principal investigator at the Jakarta-based Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology's genome diversity and diseases laboratory, said the D614G mutation of the virus has been detected in genome sequencing data from samples collected by the institute. Sudoyo described the mutated strain as "infectious, but milder".
Speaking to Reuters, she said that more research is required to determine whether the less deadly strain is behind the country's recent surge in case numbers.
The D614G mutation has previously been identified in Europe and the Americas, and has also been found in Indonesia's neighbouring countries, Singapore and Malaysia. The World Health Organization said it was first detected in February.
As reported by Malaysia's The Star, the country's director-general of health, Noor Hisham Abdullah, has previously claimed D614G is 10 times more infectious than the strain of coronavirus initially identified in the pandemic.
However, Paul Tambyah, a senior consultant at the National University of Singapore and president-elect of the International Society of Infectious Diseases, said evidence suggests the rapid increase of the D614G mutation in some parts of the world has coincided with a drop in mortality rates.
Syahrizal Syarif, an epidemiologist with the University of Indonesia, warned Indonesians to remain vigilant. As reported by Reuters, his modelling suggests the southeast Asian country may see 500,000 cases of the virus by the end of the year.
"The situation is serious … Local transmission currently is out of control," Mr Syarif said, acknowledging that the number of infections found daily could have been far higher if laboratories were able to process more specimens in a day.
Indonesia has recorded 172,052 cases of COVID-19 and more than 4300 virus-related deaths.