Indonesia’s coronavirus spike has health experts worried the worst is yet to come

Case numbers rose sharply in Java and Sumatra three weeks after the holidays that followed the Islamic month of fasting as millions ventured across the archipelago and ignored a temporary travel ban.

In Kudus, central Java, cases have since increased by 7.594%, according to Wiku Adisasmito of the Indonesian Covid-19 Task Force. Healthcare was stepped up, but hospital capacity had reached 90%, local media reported.

Defriman Djafri, an epidemiologist from Andalas University in Padang, said the May death toll in West Sumatra was the highest ever.

In Riau, Sumatra, daily cases more than doubled from early April to over 800 by mid-May, while the positivity rate was 35.8% last week, said Wildan Asfan Hasibuan, an epidemiologist and adviser to the province’s task force.

Wildan attributed the surge to increased mobility and the possible spread of coronavirus variants, which has led to large increases in many countries.

Variant influence is difficult to determine in Indonesia, which has limited genome sequencing capacity.

The country also has deficits in testing and tracking, and its vaccination campaign has progressed slowly, with one in 18 people targeted for vaccination being fully vaccinated so far.

Recent studies have also shown that cases could be far higher than the nearly 1.9 million known infections, which are among the highest case numbers in Asia.

Dicky Budiman, an epidemiologist from Griffith University in Australia, said Indonesia should take variants more seriously – especially those Strain B.1.617.2, first identified in India, which he said was in the early stages of spreading.

“If we don’t change our strategy, we will face an explosion of cases in the community and mortality rates will increase,” he said.

“It means that sooner or later it will reach the more vulnerable … we face an explosion of cases that we cannot contain or respond to in our health facilities.”

Comments are closed.