Bangkok Post

Plans ‘in tatters’ as virus cases surge


JAKARTA: Indonesia’s coronaviru­s crisis is far worse than being officially reported and the government’s response is “in tatters”, the country’s doctors associatio­n warned yesterday as the death toll climbed to 87.

The world’s fourth-most populous country only reported its first confirmed infection this month but by Thursday, that had ballooned to over 1,000.

Indonesia’s 87 confirmed coronaviru­s deaths are the highest toll in Southeast Asia, with public health and diplomatic officials warning that its weak health system is being rapidly overwhelme­d.

“The government’s plans are in tatters and they appear to be avoiding a lockdown,” said Indonesian Doctors’ Associatio­n spokesman Halik Malik.

“Our health system is not as strong as other countries.”

A London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine study warned this week that cases in Indonesia — with a population of more than 260 million people — could be vastly underrepor­ted.

The government’s virus task force has estimated as many as 700,000 people were at risk of infection nationwide.

But the rate of testing has been low compared with many other countries — only 2,300 tests were conducted before the government stopped announcing nationwide figures.

Authoritie­s have come under heavy criticism for not imposing lockdowns in major cities, including the capital

Jakarta, a vast city home to about 30 million where most of the deaths have been reported.

“The Covid-19 situation in Indonesia is very serious and getting worse quickly,” the Canadian embassy in Jakarta said on Thursday, saying it was urgently advising citizens to leave.

“The health care system in Indonesia will soon be overwhelme­d. The ultimate number of fatalities will be very high.”

Indonesia had fewer than four doctors for every 10,000 people, according to World Health Organizati­on data from 2017.

In comparison, neighbouri­ng Malaysia had about 15 doctors and Australia had 35 per 10,000 people.

Images shared on social media have shown Indonesian doctors threatenin­g to go on strike if resources aren’t beefed up, with concerns about a lack of ventilator­s, protective gear and other equipment needed to handle coronaviru­s cases.

At least seven doctors have died of the virus, according to the official figures.

In a tweet that went viral, the brotherin-law of one of those doctors slammed the Indonesian government’s handling of the crisis.

“You were infected as you actively served people. Many health workers have been infected and left. The limited amount of protective equipment is hard to forgive,” wrote Pandu Riono, a public health expert.

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