The island nation – home to around 270 million people – now reports more cases per day than hard-hit India, making Indonesia the new epicenter of the pandemic in Asia. If the spread continues unabated, experts say it could push Indonesia’s health care system to the brink of disaster.
Authorities fear that hospitals will not be able to cope with the growing number of patients requiring hospitalization, especially as the more infectious delta variant of the virus spreads. Another 991 deaths from Covid-19 were also reported on Wednesday, bringing the total death toll to 69,210.
State-run Antara News reported that 90,000 of Indonesia’s 120,000 hospital beds are occupied and many hospitals are lacking oxygen. More than 60 people died at a single facility earlier this month after a hospital in Java nearly depleted its oxygen supply, although a hospital spokesperson could not confirm whether all of the deaths had suffered from Covid-19.
Experts say Indonesia is now reaping the costs of not implementing strict lockdowns and investing enough in effective contact tracing systems. At first, authorities did not realize how quickly the virus had spread during this latest wave, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin previously told CNN.
Some fear the situation may be worse than the numbers show, as not enough people are being tested for the virus. An investigation released on Saturday found that nearly half of Jakarta’s 10.6 million residents may have contracted Covid-19.
Authorities are also struggling to get enough people vaccinated. Indonesia has only fully vaccinated 5.5% of its population, according to CNN’s Covid-19 vaccine tracker. In Jakarta, around 2 million people – about 18% of the city’s population – have been fully immunized, according to data from the Ministry of Health.
President Joko Widodo said on Wednesday that the vaccines were “Indonesia’s hope to recover from this global health crisis.”
“Fair and equal access to vaccines must be guaranteed as we see that there is still a large gap in access to vaccines across the country,” he said, according to Antara.
On Tuesday, nearly 3.5 million doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine arrived in Indonesia as part of the global COVAX vaccine sharing program. Indonesia has received more than 14 million vaccines through the program, according to state media.
The Covid epidemics in Asia
Indonesia is one of many countries in the region battling Covid-19 epidemics and fighting to vaccinate its population. India is still reporting tens of thousands of new cases per day. Myanmar’s ruling junta on Wednesday reported 7,083 new cases and 145 deaths linked to Covid-19, but social protection groups fear the real situation has worsened since the February military coup.
In Myanmar, many of those suffering from symptoms choose to stay at home because they do not trust the hospitals run by the military. Others say people have been turned away from facilities short of intensive care beds and unable to accommodate more patients.
Cases are also increasing in Malaysia. The country’s health ministry reported 11,618 new cases on Wednesday, the highest single-day total since the start of the pandemic. The state-run Bernama News reported that nearly 435,000 doses of the vaccine were administered on Wednesday, a daily record for Malaysia’s vaccination campaign.
Thailand is also suffering from its worst pandemic outbreak. To combat the spike, a government adviser approved a plan to mix doses of different coronavirus vaccines, despite public unease. The strategy has not been extensively tested.
In Northeast Asia, Japan and South Korea are also struggling to contain cases, largely because they are lagging behind Western countries in their vaccination campaigns. Several regions in South Korea have adopted new social distancing measures, with the number of daily cases reaching new records.
Japan’s capital Tokyo remains under a state of emergency that is expected to last throughout the Olympics, which begin next week. The Games will take place without spectators due to the pandemic.