Indonesia calls for help, overwhelmed by Delta variant outbreak

AFP, published on Tuesday 06 July 2021 at 16:59

Indonesia, overwhelmed by an unprecedented deadly outbreak linked to the Delta variant, with a record 728 deaths in 24 hours, called on countries in the region on Tuesday for help to urgently supply its hospitals with oxygen, on the edge. of collapse.

The worst-affected country in Southeast Asia has imported oxygen from Singapore for its patients with respiratory distress but that may not be enough, as the number of cases could climb to more than 50,000 a day, the Indonesian government announced on Tuesday.

Hospitals in the hard-hit capital Jakarta had an occupancy rate of over 90%.

Unable to cope with the huge influx of sick people, a dozen hospitals in Indonesia’s second largest city, Surabaya, have had to turn away new patients, forcing desperate families to search for oxygen cylinders to treat the sick and the dying at home.

A spokeswoman for Surabaya hospital said intensive care units were overcrowded and doctors were exhausted.

“The hospital no longer has rooms for patients who need breathing apparatus. The rooms in the intensive care units are also full,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

“We are overwhelmed. Many of our health workers are crying from exhaustion and some are also infected. We are trying to find volunteers to help us,” she added.

Nearly 1,000 Indonesian medical workers have died from Covid-19, including more than a dozen who were already 100% vaccinated, according to the Indonesian medical association.

– “Worst scenario” –

In major cities, thousands of soldiers and police are trying to enforce the new drastic measures against the virus, hoping to see the record number of daily cases drop.

The world’s fourth most populous country, with nearly 270 million people, has seen its number of daily cases more than quadruple in less than a month, with 31,189 new infections and 728 deaths recorded on Tuesday in the past 24 hours .

In Jakarta alone, the number of daily Covid-19 burials has increased tenfold since May, and exhausted cemetery workers are scrambling to deal with the situation.

On Tuesday, the government announced that around 10,000 oxygen concentrators – devices for people with respiratory failure – were due to be shipped from Singapore, with some arriving earlier on a Hercules cargo plane.

Jakarta is also in talks with other countries, including China, for help, said Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, a member of the government. “We will order oxygen from other countries if we feel there are not enough supplies.”

On Monday, authorities ordered all available oxygen supplies to be sent to hospitals.

Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan warned against the “worst case scenario” in which the daily number of new infections would reach “50,000, or even 60,000 to 70,000 cases per day”.

“But we hope that doesn’t happen.”

– 5% of vaccinated –

Offices, mosques, parks, shopping malls and restaurants were closed across the island of Java under new restriction measures enacted over the weekend.

But the infractions were numerous. Authorities in the town of Semarang, Java, fired water at shops that refused to comply.

The mayor of Surabaya even ordered that violators of the regulations be forced to visit the local cemetery, while in Malang, some locals disguised themselves as ghosts in the hope of scaring off the dissenters, in a country where Supernatural beliefs are widespread.

In total, officially, 2.3 million people have been infected in Indonesia by the coronavirus which has killed 61,686 people. Experts believe these figures are well below reality, due to insufficient tests, and lack of tracing of cases.

Indonesia has set a goal of vaccinating more than 180 million people by the start of next year. But at this point, only 5% of the population has received both doses.

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