Indonesia is the “new epicenter of the pandemic” — how and why?

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Mast Irham / EPA

Pandemic is in a phase of exponential growth due to the prevalence of the Delta variant in the country. Currently, hospitals are struggling to strengthen their capacity to provide care with beds and oxygen — a strength that has been lacking in hospital units and that deters patients from seeking medical care.

Indonesia seems to position itself as the “new epicenter of the global pandemic” given the record number of cases reported over the past few days, which exceed those registered by Brazil and India, two of the countries most affected by the new coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic.

The growing number of new infections is also already being felt in the admissions and lack of hospital response — that lacks beds and even oxygen to help the sick. The prospects for the coming weeks are not encouraging, since, according to the scientists, the absence of restrictive measures appropriate to the gravity of the situation only should aggravate.

“I predict the outbreak will continue to increase in July as it still we are not able to prevent the spread of infections,” said Pandu Riono, an epidemiologist at the University of Indonesia, this week in statements to Associated Press and quoted by Express. As such, the expert defends stricter measures.

“The restrictions that are currently in place are not the most appropriate. It is necessary apply twice the measurements, as we continue to deal with the Delta variant, which is twice as contagious,” he claimed.

The measures currently in force in Indonesia are expected to end next Tuesday. For now, the territory of Javi and Bali are in partial confinement, which means that places of worship, schools, shopping centers and sports facilities are closed.

Restaurants are only allowed to serve on a take-away basis and the number of seats available on public transport has been reduced. Teleworking is mandatory for employees in non-essential sectors and for 50% of workers in other sectors.

However, as public health specialists point out, rules are not enough to contain the level of contagion that currently exists in the country. And the numbers seem to prove it. On Wednesday, they registered 54,000 new cases, the highest number ever in the country, and 991 deaths.

On Saturday, new infections were at 51,952 and deaths at 1,091 — according to platform data Worldmeter. For the third consecutive day, Indonesia recorded higher numbers of cases than India and Brazil, where 38,079 and 34,339 new infections were reported, respectively.

The numbers can still be below the real dimension of the problem, as according to experts and organizations report, the number of tests available in the country is reduced and limited.

According to Our World Data, Oxford University website, Indonesia is of the countries where less is tested, with 55.89 tests done per thousand inhabitants.

This discrepancy led Dicky Budiman, an epidemiologist at Griffith University in Australia, to figure out Indonesia’s pandemic numbers into three or six higher than the official data.

The situation in Indonesia began to deteriorate when the Delta variant became dominant in the territory during the month of June, especially on densely populated islands such as Java and Bali. Faced with the increase in cases and hospital inflow, health professionals failed to respond the situation.

Hospitals are now focusing on increase your capacity, not only in the number of beds but also in the oxygen available — a factor that leads some patients not even to seek medical help.

According to Lapor Covid, a non-profit organization that monitors deaths caused by covid-19, about every day die. 40 sick people at home, in Indonesia.

From the perspective of the Indonesian government, the situation is “under control”, but the idea is in the air that the worst may yet be to come.

“If we take into account that the worst scenario is 60,000 new cases, or a little more, we are still doing well,” said the minister responsible for managing the pandemic in the country, Luhut Pandjaitan. “We hope not to reach 100,000, but we are already preparing ourselves in case that happens.”

In addition to the Delta variant, other factors may help explain the current state of the pandemic in Indonesia. On top of that, the big delay in the vaccination process, since only 15% of the population received a dose of the vaccine, while only a shocking one 6% are inoculated with both doses — out of a total population of 270 million people.

Added to these numbers is the fact that the majority of the vaccinated population has received the vaccine produced by Chinese company Sinovac Biotech, which, it is believed, has a low effectiveness compared to the rest.

According to The New York Times, 20 Indonesian clinicians died after contracting the virus even though they were vaccinated with this vaccine.

Given the state of the pandemic, the United States of America sent this week to the Asian country 4.5 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine — which must be administered to health professionals.

As you can read in an article by Dicky Budiman, on the website The Conversation, many flaws can be pointed out to the Indonesian government, which, for example, resisted the creation and implementation of a risk contact tracking system for a period of 16 months. As such, Budiman accuses authorities of prioritizing economics over public health.

“The risks of the pandemic were underestimated from the start, both in terms of strategy and communication. There was little transparency and lack of communication”, pointed out the specialist. Such a policy, you understand, left Indonesia in a “extreme vulnerability position”.

96d6f2e7e1f705ab5e59c84a6dc009b2 1 Indonesia is the “new epicenter of the pandemic” — how and why? ARM, ZAP //