COVID-19: Indonesia Surpasses 2M Infections, Announces Restrictions

Tria Dianti
Jakarta
2021-06-21
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COVID-19: Indonesia Surpasses 2M Infections, Announces Restrictions Women are tested for COVID-19 during a mobile screening at the University of North Sumatra in Medan, Indonesia, June 21, 2021.
AP

Indonesia, the Southeast Asian country hardest hit by COVID-19, surpassed 2 million infections on Monday while setting a single-day record for new cases and announcing stricter mobility restrictions.

The Philippines, the runner-up in the region among countries with more than 1.3 million infections, reported meanwhile that it had a deal to acquire 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. Southeast Asian countries have been having a lot of difficulty getting vaccine, and inoculation rates in some countries are at less than 5 percent of their total population, even as more infectious and deadly variants of the virus spread.

In Jakarta, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s government announced stricter restrictions starting on Tuesday, said Airlangga Hartarto, the head of the country’s COVID-19 management committee.

“The president has given a directive to make adjustments to strengthen public mobility restrictions for the next two weeks,” Airlangga told reporters.

These include closing places of worship and public parks and requiring offices and restaurants to allow only up to 25 percent of capacity in areas designated as coronavirus red zones, he said, adding that in yellow and green zones, workplaces can have 50 percent of capacity.

Essential sectors such as public utility companies, supermarkets and pharmacies will be able operate at full capacity under strengthened health protocols, he said.

The government’s decision to impose stricter restrictions is unlikely to be enough to curb the spread of the virus, said an Indonesian epidemiologist at Australia’s Griffith University.

“With the increase in cases, the restrictions are not significant and will not be effective because the problem is cases have spread everywhere, resulting in high positivity rates,” Dicky Budiman told BenarNews.

A report by the Asia Society Policy Institute released on Monday noted that Southeast Asian nations were able to keep the pandemic at bay in 2020 through lockdowns and other restrictions, but they need strong vaccination programs to move past “the acute case of the pandemic.”

A chart in the report by Richard Maude, a senior fellow at the institute, showed that in both Indonesia and the Philippines, less than 10 percent of the population have been vaccinated.  He noted that upgrades in vaccine production and donations might be “just be in time for Southeast Asia as the region works desperately to ramp up vaccination programs.

“But Southeast Asia’s lower-income countries will still need significant external donor support, not just for vaccines but to turbo-charge vaccination rates, overcome vaccine hesitancy, and manage the logistical challenges of the so-called ‘last mile’ of delivery,” Maude said.

Meanwhile in Washington, the White House on Monday updated government plans to distribute 55 million of the 80 million doses from the U.S. supply to nations in need across the globe. Its statement noted that about 16 million doses were to be distributed to 18 Asian governments, including Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Bangladesh.

Record set

Indonesia recorded 14,536 new coronavirus infections and 294 fatalities on Monday, raising the pandemic totals to 2,004,445 and nearly 55,000 respectively, according to the health ministry. The new one-day record topped the 14,518 cases reported on Jan. 30.

Indonesian Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said hospital bed occupancy for COVID-19 patients had reached 90 percent in Jakarta.

“The most important thing to do now is to reduce mobility between 75 percent and 100 percent for areas in the red zone,” Budi said.

The Indonesian government reported that 23.2 million people had received at least the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine as the nation seeks to vaccinate 181.5 million of its 270 million people by April 2022 to achieve herd immunity.

Government data shows Indonesia has received 104.7 million doses of vaccines, consisting of 94.5 million doses from Sinovac, 8.2 million doses from AstraZeneca and 2 million doses from Sinopharm.

Still, Pandu Riono, a public health professor at the University of Indonesia, said the nation was experiencing a second wave of the pandemic.

“Clearly there has been a drastic increase in cases and there is no sign of when the peak will be reached,” he told BenarNews.

He noted that the government had failed to prevent Eid al-Fitr revelers from returning to their hometowns in mid-May despite a ban.

“The government should have prevented this from happening, now it’s just like putting out fires that have already spread,” he said.

 

210621-ID-PH-covid-inside.jpg
A Philippine health worker inoculates a patient inside a sports stadium turned into a temporary COVID-19 vaccination site in San Juan City, Metro Manila, June 15, 2021. [Basilio Sepe/BenarNews]

Philippine deal

In Manila, officials announced that the government would purchase 40 million doses of vaccine co-developed by U.S. firm Pfizer in partnership with a German firm, BioNTech, and which are expected to begin arriving later this year.

The supply agreement calls for the producer to deliver the vaccines “after eight weeks starting in August,” said Carlito Galvez, Manila’s cabinet official in charge of buying vaccines.

“The vaccine demand has begun to ease up for many big and rich countries, as most of them have already acquired more than enough vaccines for their population and have vaccinated many of their citizens,” he said in a statement on Sunday, adding this has allowed Pfizer to commit to bulk deliveries.

Philippine health officials reported 5,249 new cases and 128 fatalities on Monday, increasing the totals to 1.36 million and nearly 23,750, respectively.

The nation has 12.7 million vaccine doses in hand, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said on Monday. Of that total, 7.5 million doses came from Sinovac; 2.55 million from AstraZeneca; and 2.4 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The stockpile includes 180,000 doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine, he said.

Earlier this month, health authorities reported that 1.5 million Filipinos had been fully vaccinated while another 4.4 million had received their first dose.

Expressing concern that the nation has recorded new cases of the more virulent Delta variant first reported in India, Roque appealed to people to get vaccinated. Of four victims identified recently, one remains hospitalized while the other three have been isolated and recovered.

“Because of this Delta variant, those who can be vaccinated, please do so,” Roque said. “Please do not hesitate, because this new Delta variant is more transmissible and deadly.”

During a late-night cabinet meeting on Monday, meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte warned that his administration would go after anyone who refused to be vaccinated.

“I’ll task the DILG [Department of the Interior and Local Government] to do that, to look for these persons. Kung hindi (If not), I will order their arrest sa totoo lang (to be honest),” the president said, according to the state-run Philippine News Agency. 

Philippine government figures showed that 17 people have been diagnosed with the Delta variant since early May.

Dr. Cynthia Saloma, head of Philippine Genome Center, said strict monitoring could contain its spread. She noted that the Delta variant cases detected were all “international travelers” and that the variant has not been detected locally so far.  

“We have not detected them in our communities yet so we have this unique opportunity … to prevent their entry into the country and the spread in our communities through strong border control,” Saloma said. 

Marielle Lucenio and Basilio Sepe in Manila, and Richel V. Umel in Iligan City, Philippines, contributed to this report.

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