Indonesia logs record 1,040 Covid deaths in 24 hours

Indonesia logs record 1,040 Covid deaths in 24 hours

Workers bury the bodies of Covid-19 coronavirus victims at the Pedurenan public cemetery in Bekasi, West Java, on Wednesday. (AFP photo)
Workers bury the bodies of Covid-19 coronavirus victims at the Pedurenan public cemetery in Bekasi, West Java, on Wednesday. (AFP photo)

The daily death toll from Covid-19 in Indonesia exceeded 1,000 for the first time, intensifying the battle to contain a resurgence of infections that has overwhelmed its medical system.

The nation reported 1,040 more deaths in the past 24 hours, double the number just a week ago, latest ministry data show. It registered 34,379 new cases as of Wednesday, also a daily record.

Southeast Asia’s biggest economy is preparing a response should daily cases hit 70,000, which would be a worst-case scenario, according to Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, who is overseeing the pandemic response in the country’s most-populated islands of Java and Bali. The government said this week it plans to start importing oxygen to secure supply.

The government has begun enforcing its tightest curbs in Java and Bali as cases surged. Mobility needs to be reduced by 50% to be able to slow the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant, which now accounts for 90% of active cases, said Panjaitan.

With criticism growing over Indonesia's response, an alliance of non-governmental organisations, including Amnesty International Indonesia and the Legal Aid Institute, called on the government to apologise for mishandling the Covid-19 crisis.

Authorities on Wednesday threatened to revoke licences of companies staying open and issued guidelines on office capacity for critical businesses after raiding dozens of companies for flouting rules.

Fragile healthcare system

The spike in cases has fuelled a growing sense of anxiety about Indonesia's fragile healthcare system and its capacity to handle an unfolding health crisis.

On social media, messages pleading for help to find oxygen tanks and hospital beds have circulated, as hospitals across Java edge closer to full capacity. The government has set up an oxygen refilling station in Jakarta to supply hospitals and said that all oxygen produced in the country will be diverted for medical use.

But stocks of portable oxygen had run dry in six cities on Java by Wednesday, including Yogyakarta and Solo, according to M. Hendry Setiawan, an official at the Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU).

Authorities have warned people against hoarding oxygen tanks and medical equipment, with more patients being treated, and sometimes dying, at home because they can’t find a hospital bed.

"Hospitals should be accepting patients that have tested positive because my brother has been rejected...and we don't know if we can take care of him at home," said Harfan Dani, 35, a resident queuing to buy oxygen.

This week, the health minister promised to boost telemedicine services for those isolating at home with milder symptoms, and add up to 8,000 more hospital beds.

But doctors have questioned how they can staff new facilities, with thousands of healthcare workers forced to isolate after contracting the respiratory disease, despite being vaccinated.

Australia pledged on Wednesday to donate oxygen-related equipment, test-kits and 2.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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