Indonesia will face “an explosion of cases” if health authorities don’t take action, epidemiologists have warned, following an increase in cases in the country’s two most populous islands.
Most important points:
- Cases have risen sharply after national holidays when people traveled in greater numbers grotere
- Less than 5 percent of the target group is fully vaccinated
- Indonesia has limited genomic testing capacity
Indonesia reported 8,892 new daily coronavirus infections on Thursday, the highest since Feb. 23, bringing the total number of cases to 1,885,942.
Data from the coronavirus task force also showed 211 COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, bringing the total number of fatalities to 52,373.
Cases have risen sharply in Java and Sumatra, three weeks after the holidays following the Muslim month of fasting, as millions ventured across the archipelago ignoring a temporary travel ban.
Dicky Budiman, an epidemiologist from Australia’s Griffith University, said Indonesia should take COVID-19 variants more seriously, especially the Delta variant, 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 the death rate will increase,” he said.
“It means sooner or later it will reach the most vulnerable… we will face an explosion of cases that we cannot control or respond to in our health facilities.”
In Kudus, Central Java, where health care strengthening has been deployed, cases skyrocketed by 7,594 percent, according to Wiku Adisamito of Indonesia’s COVID-19 Task Force.
Hospital capacity there had reached 90 percent, local media reported.
Defriman Djafri, an epidemiologist from Andalas University in Pandang, said the most recorded fatalities were in West Sumatra in May.
In Riau, Sumatra, daily cases more than doubled from early April to more than 800 by mid-May, while the positivity rate was 35.8 percent last week, said Wildan Asfan Hasibuan, an epidemiologist and provincial adviser to the task force.
Wildan attributed the spike to increased mobility and possible spread of coronavirus variants, which have led to major spikes in many countries.
The impact of variants of concern is difficult to determine in Indonesia, which has limited genomic sequencing capacity.
It also has shortcomings in testing and detection and its immunization action has progressed slowly, with one in 18 people targeted by inoculations being fully vaccinated so far.
Recent studies have also shown that the number of cases could far exceed the nearly 1.9 million known infections, among the highest caseloads in Asia.