Indonesia Becomes the World's Newest Epicenter of the Coronavirus Pandemic
By Andrew Guan
Indonesia is named the new epicenter of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, surpassing that of Brazil and India, after a surge of the Delta variant powers through Southeast Asia, ravaging entire nations to their cores. Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, and Malaysia are also experiencing their largest coronavirus outbreaks since the beginning of the pandemic and have issued new restrictions.
Unfortunately, oxygen supplies in Indonesia are having trouble keeping up with the population’s demands, including the hospitals. “There are many instances where patients do not get beds or oxygen. If we go to the hospital, we have to bring our own oxygen,” says Nyimas Siti Nadia, a 28-year-old woman looking for oxygen.
Dr. Budiman, the Indonesian epidemiologist at Griffith University in Australia, predicted over a year ago that Indonesia would someday become the epicenter of the pandemic due to its dense population (Indonesia has the world’s fourth largest population) and its weak health care system. Currently, he urges the continuation of contact tracing, testing, and isolation in Indonesia. Indonesia performs about 230,000 tests a day, which is an extreme improvement. Dr. Budiman, on the other hand, says it is not enough.
According to health experts, there is a good chance that current testing numbers understate the spread of the virus in Indonesia because of limited testing capabilities. On Thursday, almost 57,000 new cases were reported, along with 1,205 deaths on Friday. Dr. Budiman suggests that the true figure could be as much as six times higher.
Due to the large numbers of hospitalized victims, many people choose to stay at home. According to Lapor Covid, a nonprofit that tracks deaths related to the coronavirus, at least 40 people per day are dying at home.
Roughly fifteen percent of Indonesia’s population has received one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, but only six percent are fully vaccinated. Indonesia relies on a vaccine produced by Sinovac Biotech, a Chinese company, but the vaccine is less effective than those of Pfizer and Moderna. Fortunately, the United States is donating 4.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine to Indonesia; officials plan on giving shots to their 1.5 million health care workers.
Despite the conditions set on the horizon, Indonesian officials say that everything is under control. “We are hoping that it will not reach 100,000, but even so, we are preparing now for if we ever get there,” says Luhut Pandjaitan, a senior minister assigned by President Joko Widodo to manage the crisis.
President Joko Widodo will not issue a nationwide lockdown but has placed heavy restrictions upon Java and Bali. Churches, schools, stores, and restaurants are limited to certain attributes. The restrictions are to expire on Tuesday, but some officials are suggesting an extension of the restrictions.