Disturbing Covid claim on Australia’s doorstep

·Assistant News Editor
·4-min read

The diabolical coronavirus situation in Indonesia could be worse than it appears as official cases and deaths continue to climb as the Delta variant wreaks havoc on Australia's doorstep. 

Southeast Asia's largest and most populous country has seen record daily infections in 11 of the past 16 days, with 31,189 new cases and 728 fatalities on Tuesday.

Bed shortages have been reported across the country with the hospital system struggling to cope with the surge in cases as fears mount that the country is on the cusp of an Indian-style Covid catastrophe.

Covid-19 patients crowd the yard and emergency tents at a hospital in West Java last month. Source: Getty
Covid-19 patients crowd the yard and emergency tents at a hospital in West Java last month. Source: Getty

With a shortage of oxygen also plaguing the healthcare response, the government is amassing backup medical facilities and preparing for a worst-case scenario where daily coronavirus infections reach 60,000 to 70,000, officials say. 

But some experts believe the country is already there, with the infection rate much higher than the official numbers suggest. 

Simon Lynch is the Indonesia Program Director at Opportunity International Australia, an NGO which provides micro-financing to families and small businesses in developing countries in our region. 

"What we're hearing is that the case numbers are far higher than what's being reported," he told ABC radio on Wednesday morning. 

Official cases and deaths have skyrocketed in July. Source: Reuters
Official cases and deaths have skyrocketed in July. Source: Reuters

The Institute of Metrics at the University of Washington, Mr Lynch said, estimates the number "is probably five times higher".

"They're projecting upwards of 800,000 plus cases a day" as a worst case scenario peak. 

Opportunity International says it supports about 1.3 million clients with micro loans in Indonesia. 

"What's really worrying ... we were seeing one or two [cases] in an area, now as soon as it gets into a branch the whole branch is going down, or a village, it's just spreading rapidly," Mr Lynch said. 

Concerns are mounting that Indonesia will be
Concerns are mounting that Indonesia will be "the next India" in the global coronavirus pandemic. Source: Getty

Making matters worse, Just 1.6 per cent of its more than 270 million population have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Indonesia on Saturday tightened curbs on movement, office work, dining and air travel on Java and Bali islands and on Tuesday tightened measures in 20 other provinces.

Authorities have voiced concern about reports of heavy traffic in Jakarta and the city's governor Anies Baswedan said on Twitter his inspection of office buildings on Tuesday found a number of non-essential businesses still operating.

"We bury more than 300 people per day, those are our brothers and sisters," he said in an accompanying video. "This is all about protecting them."

Calls for Australia to do more to help

Calls are growing louder for Australia to offer greater support for Indonesia, a critical ally in the region.

The federal Opposition's foreign affairs spokesperson Penny Wong labelled the situation unfolding in the country as "deeply concerning". 

Speaking to The Guardian, she said the Australian government "must act now with a comprehensive response to Indonesia’s needs, including the emergency provision of oxygen".

While Australia is offering some assistance to Indonesia via the multilateral Covax initiative, its foreign health aid to the country has been dwindling in recent years but the federal government reportedly extended a $1 billion standing loan to help the country's Covid recovery in November. 

Indonesia has been largely reliant on vaccines from China "because only China can meet the number of vaccines needed for Indonesia," a health official said last month. 

The office of Foreign Minister Marise Payne has been contacted for comment. 

UPDATE: On Wednesday evening, Ms Payne announced that Australia would be sending medical supplies including oxygen, ventilators and testing kits, as well as 2.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Indonesia.

"Australian support will extend rapid testing capacity, maintain existing health services and assist with emergency medical facilities as Indonesia responds to growing case numbers," she said.

with Reuters

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