Indonesia imports oxygen as hospitals battered by Covid-19

The Indonesian government announced that it is sourcing emergency oxygen for Covid-19 patients from Singapore on Tuesday July 6, as the country reports a record 728 deaths and hospitals crumble under the weight of its deadliest wave yet

Agence France-Presse
July 6, 2021
Indonesia imports oxygen as hospitals battered by Covid-19
A doctor prepares to give the Sinovac Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at a makeshift mass vaccination clinic on a football field in Surabaya, East Java, on July 6, 2021, as the Southeast Asian nation battles an unprecedented wave of new infections. Photo by Juni Kriswanto/AFP

Indonesia is sourcing emergency oxygen for virus patients from neighbouring Singapore, the government said Tuesday, as the 24-hour toll soared to a record 728 deaths and hospitals crumble under the weight of its deadliest Covid-19 wave yet.

Jakarta warned that it was bracing for a spike driven by the highly infectious Delta variant that could send cases skyrocketing to more than 50,000 a day.

Hospitals in the hard-hit capital were topping 90 percent occupancy while more than a dozen facilities in Indonesia’s second-biggest city Surabaya are now full and not taking any more patients, authorities said.

A Surabaya hospital spokeswoman described jammed ICUs and exhausted doctors, some infected with Covid-19. 

“The hospital no longer has rooms for patients who need ventilators. The ICU rooms are also full,” said the woman who asked not to be identified.

“We’re overwhelmed. Many of our health workers have collapsed from exhaustion and some are also infected. We trying to get volunteers to help out because many of the staff are down.”

Nearly 1,000 Indonesian medical workers have died of Covid-19, including more than a dozen who were already fully inoculated.

Desperate families are hunting for oxygen tanks to treat the sick and dying at home, as authorities scramble to enforce new virus curbs to bring down record daily cases, which soared Tuesday to 31,189 new infections and 728 deaths — as much as seven times the daily mortality rate less than a month ago.

On Tuesday, Jakarta said about 10,000 concentrators — devices that generate oxygen — were to be shipped from nearby Singapore with some arriving by a Hercules cargo plane earlier.

The government was also in talks with other countries including China for help, it said. 

Jakarta has ordered all the nation’s oxygen supplies to be directed to hospitals overflowing with virus patients as the Delta variant ripples across Indonesia’s main Java island, home to more than half of the country’s nearly 270 million people. 

“The team is preparing for a scenario of up to 50,000 cases a day, maybe even 60,000 to 70,000 per day at worst,” said senior minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, tasked with enforcing new virus rules.

“But we hope that won’t happen.”

Offices, mosques, parks, shopping malls and restaurants have been shuttered across Java under new curbs that started from the weekend. 

But there have been widespread violations. 

Authorities in Java’s Semarang city fired water hoses at shops that have refused to close, while Jakarta’s governor Anies Baswedan on Tuesday ordered dozens of offices sealed after some employers ignored work-from-home orders.

The world’s fourth most populous nation has seen its daily caseload soar in recent weeks with its tally at more than 2.3 million cases and 61,686 deaths.

That figure is widely believed to be a severe undercount due to low testing and poor tracing measures.

“The Delta variant has been a major blow to our health system…There is no way to get the situation under control” at current testing levels, said public health expert Hermawan Saputra.

Daily Covid-19 burials in Jakarta are up 10-fold since May, the government has said.

Indonesia is scrambling to innoculate over 180 million people by early next year.

But so far, only about five percent of the total population has received two jabs.

© Agence France-Presse

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