July 15 (Reuters) – Indonesia braces for its COVID-19 outbreak to worsen after an almost vertical surge in cases, a senior minister said on Thursday, warning that the infections had spread faster than expected due to the more virulent Delta variant.
The fourth most populous country in the world is struggling to slow the transmission of the virus even after imposing its tightest mobility restrictions so far.
Wednesday’s tally of more than 54,000 cases was the latest of many spikes in the past month and more than increased the number of infections tenfold in early June.
In a streaming press conference, Senior Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said daily COVID-19 cases could increase further because the Delta variant, first identified in India, has an incubation period of two to three weeks.
“We are already in our worst case scenario,” Luhut said.
“If we’re talking about 60,000 (cases per day) or a little more than that, we’re fine. We are not hoping for 100,000, but even if we do, we are preparing for it, ”he added.
The government has converted several buildings into isolation facilities, deployed new graduate doctors and nurses to treat patients with COVID-19, and imported treatment drugs and oxygen, he said.
Hospitals on Indonesia’s most populous island of Java have been flooded in recent weeks, with scores of people struggling to seek treatment and hundreds of people having died in self-isolation.
Cases and bed occupancy rates have also increased in parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan and in more remote areas like West Papua, where health facilities are less equipped to handle an outbreak.
Luhut also said the vaccine’s effectiveness was lower against the Delta variant which accounted for most infections on the island of Java, but urged people to get vaccinated to help prevent serious illness and death.
The government was analyzing the situation and would decide whether or not to extend the current emergency coronavirus restrictions which expire on July 20, he said.
In a separate statement, the country’s COVID-19 task force said there was poor adherence to health protocols despite mobility restrictions.
Reportage de Gayatri Suroyo et Stanley Widianto Montage par Ed Davies
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