After India and Brazil, where the number of COVID-19 cases recorded daily has exceeded that of any other country, leading to increased admissions and hospital chaos, attention is now turning to Indonesia. The country this week has become a “new epicenter of the epidemic”, as described by many international media, and it is feared that the situation will worsen in the coming weeks.
“I expect the outbreak to continue to increase in July because we have not yet been able to prevent the spread of infection,” Pandu Ryuno, an epidemiologist at the University of Indonesia said this week.And the Call for tighter restrictions. “Currently the restrictions are not the most appropriate. It is necessary to apply the procedures twice, as we continue to deal with the delta variant, which is a multiplier of infection,” the Associated Press reported. Like him, other experts have called for more restrictions in the country to contain the virus – or at least an extension of the period currently in effect, which ends next Tuesday.
Jaffe and Bali have been in partial confinement since 1 July, with houses of worship, schools, shopping centers and sports facilities closed; Restaurants can only serve as fast food and the number of places available on public transport has been reduced to avoid infection while traveling. Teleworking is now mandatory for employees in sectors considered non-essential and 50% of workers in other sectors.
And judging by the numbers, it seems that metrics aren’t enough. On Wednesday, it recorded more than 54,000 new cases, the highest number reported in the country so far. The number of deaths reached 991, according to figures provided by Indian health authorities. In theSaturday, 51,952 new cases and 1,092 deaths were recorded, according to data available on the Worldometer . platform. For the third day in a row, Indonesia has overtaken India and Brazil, countries that have been particularly affected by the epidemic since the beginning and where 38,079 and 34,339 new infections were reported, respectively.
Health experts estimate the numbers are even higher, because access to testing in the country is limited — according to data from Our World in Data, from the University of Oxford, Indonesia is one of the countries doing fewer tests, with 55.89 tests each with 1,000 residents. Dickie Bodman, an epidemiologist at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, noted in the New York Times that the numbers are three to six times higher than what is reported daily.
Hospitals lack beds and oxygen
The situation in Indonesia began to raise concerns last month when a delta strain of the virus, considered the most contagious, began spreading on densely populated islands such as Java and Bali. In some areas, hospitals failed to respond, due to the high number of admissions. They are now trying, at all costs, to increase their capacity, but the beds are still not enough for everyone, as well as oxygen, which makes many patients not even go to hospitals for help. According to data from Lapor Covid, a non-profit organization that monitors deaths from the virus, citing the American newspaper, at least 40 patients die every day in their homes in Indonesia.
For now, the government considers everything to be under control, but it knows the worst may come. “If we take into account that the worst case scenario is 60,000 new cases, or a little more, we are still doing well. We hope not to reach 100,000, but we are already preparing ourselves in case that happens”Luhut Panjitan, the minister responsible for dealing with the epidemic in the country, said this week, citing the international press.
In addition to the delta variable entering circulation, there are other reasons that may explain the rise in cases in Indonesia, such as the low number of people vaccinated against the virus. Only 15% of the population (270 million in total) have received a dose of the vaccine and only 6% are fully protected from the virus, according to data compiled by Our World in Data.
Most of them received the vaccine produced by the Chinese company Sinovac Biotech, which proved to be less effective than the rest. And the New York Times reports, by the way, that at least 20 Indonesian doctors who were given this vaccine died of the virus. In a collaborative effort, the United States this week donated to the country 4.5 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine, which will be given as a priority to health professionals.
In fact, there are many flaws that have been made clear to the Indonesian government. Dickie Bodeman, the epidemiologist named here, signs an article on The Conversation asserting that authorities have resisted “for 16 months” implementing a contact tracing system, in which people who may have had contact with the virus have been asked to isolate themselves and thus prevent transmission.
Bodeman also accuses the government of giving the economy a greater priority than public health. The risks of the pandemic have been underestimated from the start, both in terms of strategy and communication. There was little transparency and no communication about the disease.” The expert concluded that all this put Indonesia in a “very vulnerable position.”