Parts of Indonesia are running out of hospital beds as delta variant surges, health minister says


Indonesia’s government added hospital bed capacity in preparation for a post-holiday increase in Covid infections, but parts of the country are still running out of beds as daily cases surge to new highs, according to Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin.

He told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” that Indonesia has up to around 130,000 beds dedicated to Covid patients and, as of yesterday, 72,000 people are in isolation beds.

But he admitted that the Southeast Asian nation is facing two problems.

“The first issue is the acceleration is much faster than what we saw in January, February,” he said. “That’s why for a very dense area … we start the mobility restrictions next week, to make sure to reduce the speed of incoming patients to the hospital.”

He attributed the increase in new cases to the delta variant, which was first detected in India.

Indonesia tightened restrictions in infection hot spots last week and on Thursday announced that stricter emergency measures will be in place from July 3 to July 20.

In Jakarta area, it’s already reaching 90% of the bed capacity.
Budi Gunadi Sadikin
Indonesia’s Health Minister

The second issue is that infections are concentrated in certain parts of the country, especially its most populous island, Java.

“In Jakarta area, it’s already reaching 90% of the bed capacity,” he said on Wednesday.

Jan Gelfand of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said “lightning-fast action” is needed to give countries such as Indonesia access to vaccines.

“Every day we are seeing this Delta variant driving Indonesia closer to the edge of a Covid-19 catastrophe,” Gelfand, IFRC’s head of Indonesia delegation, said in a press release.

No nationwide lockdown

Indonesia’s health minister is reportedly pushing for stricter Covid measures in Indonesia, but told CNBC that the authorities will not consider a nationwide lockdown.

“Definitely not, because … the cluster is only on a certain area,” he said. “Kalimantan doesn’t have this. Sulawesi doesn’t have this. Most of Sumatra doesn’t have this, (and) Bali is still under control.”

Indonesia’s tourism minister told Reuters this week that the country wanted to reopen Bali, a popular destination for vacations, at the end of July or early August, but will need to be “mindful” of the recent spike in cases.

Health minister Budi said only 30% to 40% of hospital beds are in use in Sumatra and Kalimantan. “It’s not evenly distributed.”

A Covid-19 patient inside the Wisma Atlet Covid-19 Emergency Hospital complex.
Risa Krisadhi | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

He also said Indonesia can increase oxygen production if needed, adding the country has diverted some industrial supply to hospitals.

Distribution is an issue, however, because factories are mostly located in West Java and East Java, while central Java is in need of oxygen supply, he said.

Vaccination progress

As for vaccinations, Budi said the country has administered 43 million shots to around 28 million people. That represents slightly over 10% of Indonesia’s population of around 276 million.

He said the vaccination rate has been steady at around 1 million doses per day this week.

“Our president asked me to increase from 1 million doses per day to 2 million doses per day, which … can be achieved because now we are asking all the private sector, all the police and all the army to help us,” he said.

Indonesia has received donations from China, Japan, Australia, the U.S. and Covax, a global alliance that seeks to provide vaccines to poorer countries, Budi said. It also has agreements to purchase vaccines from AstraZeneca and Pfizer, he said.

According to the World Health Organization, Indonesia’s new Covid cases reported between June 21 and June 27 are up 60% from the week before. Some 2,476 deaths were also recorded in that period.

As of June 29, Indonesia has confirmed 2.16 million coronavirus infections and 58,024 deaths, data from Johns Hopkins University indicated.

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