01/26/2021, 16.18
INDONESIA
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More than a million COVID-19 cases in Indonesia

by Ati Nurbaiti

One in three people tested positive. Hospitals are near collapse. The families of patients face tragic hurdles. Since the start of the crisis, 652 doctors and nurses have died. The vaccination of 1.3 million health workers has started. Areas affected by earthquakes and flooding face additional problems.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The number of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia topped one million today. On Saturday, the positivity rate was 33.2 per cent. One in three tested Indonesians is infected, far above the 5 per cent limit set by the World Health Organization.

The numbers, the highest in Southeast Asia, do not tell the whole truth about the pandemic in Indonesia. Testing and contact tracing capacity remains very low.

“Most people who were tested are like me,” Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said Friday, referring to people who were tested voluntarily.

So far, 1,012,350 cases have been reported with 163,000 people hospitalised or in self-isolation, including Doni Monardo, head of the national COVID-19 task force. More than 28,000 people have died with about 820,500 healed.

According to epidemiologists, the dead could be at least three times the official figure. Almost all cities and regencies (districts) have reported a shortage of hospital beds, intensive care units, ventilators, oxygen tanks, isolation centres, and burial sites.

On 19 January, a mother and her three-year-old child found a place in the capital's Cipto Mangunkusumo hospital. They succeeded only after volunteers contacted 60 health facilities, but without access to intensive care. Several sick people reported being treated in corridors and waiting rooms of hospitals.

“Families who have decided to bring home their sick relatives are physically and mentally exhausted,” said Irma Hidayana of LaporCOVID-19, a civic group that helps medical staff fight the pandemic.

During an online press conference yesterday, she explained that many families have been “traumatised” by the repeated refusals by hospitals. A number of sick people, especially the elderly, have died while their families were moving them from one facility to another.

Local governments are adding as many hospitalisation and isolation centres as possible, but medical staff are severely stretched.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic in March, 652 healthcare workers have died, including doctors, nurses, midwives and lab technicians. According to LaporCOVID-19, the highest number of victims was registered in community health centres, the lowest level of health facilities.

For the authorities, the vaccination of about 1.3 million healthcare professionals remains the priority. However, the campaign is proceeding slowly.

After the holidays at the end of the year, infections took off: 103 doctors and members of the medical staff died in January.

In various parts of the country, volunteers and healthcare workers are struggling to enforce anti-COVID protocols, such as among flood survivors in the provinces of North Sulawesi and South Kalimantan. The same goes for the nearly 20,000 residents of West Sulawesi who need shelter after a recent earthquake that killed 90 people and aftershocks.

The West Sulawesi Health Agency reported widespread resistance among refugees to coronavirus testing.

Thamrin, one of nearly 700 earthquake survivors who fled to Makassar, capital of southern Sulawesi, said in a video on fajar.co.id media website that the tests would aggravate the mental “trauma” of earthquake survivors.

Makassar Mayor Rudy Djamaluddin welcomed all the refugees and encouraged them to undergo free testing to contain the pandemic. Local authorities expect aftershocks in the next three weeks; all rescuers and volunteers are also being tested.

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