Indonesia hits 2m cases as Covid spirals out of control

Published June 22, 2021
A medical worker collects a nasal swab sample from a man during a mandatory coronavirus test for those traveling between Madura Island and the provincial capital of Surabaya, at Suramadu Bridge that connects the two East Java regions, in Surabaya, Indonesia. — AP
A medical worker collects a nasal swab sample from a man during a mandatory coronavirus test for those traveling between Madura Island and the provincial capital of Surabaya, at Suramadu Bridge that connects the two East Java regions, in Surabaya, Indonesia. — AP

JAKARTA: Indonesia passed two million coronavirus cases on Monday as infection rates soar and hospitals are flooded with new patients, prompting warnings that the Southeast Asian nation’s health crisis could spiral out of control.

The unwanted milestone came after daily case rates more than doubled in recent weeks and authorities identified the presence of highly infectious Covid-19 variants.

On Monday, official figures showed that Indonesia had recorded a daily record high of 14,536 cases, taking the total to just over two million with nearly 55,000 deaths, among a population of nearly 270 million.

But those figures are widely thought to be a severe undercount, due to low testing and contact tracing — some experts have said that official cases may only be about 10 percent of the real number.

“It’s starting to bubble up to the surface, like a time bomb,” said Windhu Purnomo, an epidemiologist at Indonesia’s Airlangga University.

“This is just the beginning. Depending on how things are handled, we could end up with a major explosion like in India.”

Case numbers are spiking as Indonesia grapples with new virus strains, including the highly infectious Delta variant first identified in India.

Hospital occupancy rates have soared to over 75 percent in Jakarta and other hard-hit areas, while funerals for Covid-19 victims have also reportedly jumped.

“It’s worrying,” Jakarta resident Rahmani said at a cemetery where he attended the funeral of a relative who died of the virus.

“As good citizens we have to follow government orders to obey health protocols.”

Younger victims

The Indonesian Medical Association said the variants appeared to be sickening younger people.

“Previously, Covid-19 patients were elderly or those with [pre-existing conditions],” the association’s Covid-19 spokeswoman Erlina Burhan said earlier.

“But since the virus variants were detected, a lot of patients were younger” and did not have pre-existing conditions, she added.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2021

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