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Indonesia's COVID-19 situation nears 'catastrophe' - Red Cross

by Reuters
Tuesday, 29 June 2021 11:10 GMT

(Adds details on demand for oxygen tanks paragraphs 8-11)

JAKARTA, June 29 (Reuters) - Indonesia's COVID-19 surge is on the edge of a "catastrophe" as the more infectious Delta variant dominates transmission and chokes hospitals in Southeast Asia's worst epidemic, the Red Cross said on Tuesday.

Indonesia has reported record daily COVID-19 infections of more than 20,000 in recent days, in a new wave of infections fueled by the emergence of highly transmissible virus variants and increased mobility after the Muslim fasting month.

"Every day we are seeing this Delta variant driving Indonesia closer to the edge of a COVID-19 catastrophe," said Jan Gelfand, head of the Indonesian delegation of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), urging better vaccine access globally.

Calls have grown from health workers for tighter restrictions as infections surge to unprecedented levels.

Indonesia's health minister is leading a push for stricter controls, sources familiar with government discussions have told Reuters.

Hospitals in several designated "red zone" areas have reported overcapacity, including the capital Jakarta, with its isolation beds 93% occupied as of Sunday.

"Hospitals are full because of the case surge caused by mobility and loosening health protocol adherence, worsened also by the Delta variant," said senior health ministry official Siti Nadia Tarmizi, when asked about the IFRC's assessment.

With patients being turned away some families are taking matters into their own hands.

On Tuesday Taufik Hidayat, 51, spent his day looking for fresh oxygen tanks.

"I'm queuing here now to refill oxygen for my wife and son who are now positive with COVID-19," he said. "I went around and it all was sold out."

Sellers in others areas in Jakarta told Reuters their stocks had also dried up, but Sulung Mulia Putra, an official at Jakarta health agency, said the shortage was temporary and due to distribution issues that were being resolved.

Indonesia is banking on mass vaccinations to get on top of the virus, but only 13.3 million of the 181.5 million targeted for inoculation have received the required two doses.

Japan will provide two million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in July, Indonesia's foreign minister Retno Marsudi said on Tuesday. Indonesia has so far received 104 million doses of coronavirus vaccines in total.

Japan on Tuesday said it will provide 1.05 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Thailand also and 1 million doses of the same vaccine to the Philippines.

Citing unnamed sources, The Straits Times newspaper on Tuesday reported the Indonesian government would this week tighten restrictions on restaurant dining and domestic air travel.

Asked for confirmation, Nadia of the health ministry said: "Wait for the official announcement." (Reporting by Stanley Widianto; Editing by Martin Petty)

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