As spike in COVID-19 cases taxes healthcare system, some Indonesians have little choice but to isolate at home

23-Jul-2021 Intellasia | CNA | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Indonesian Rudi Zafar, 31, could barely breathe and walk at the end of June after testing positive for COVID-19.

Despite his weak condition, for days he went from one hospital to the other to seek medical treatment in his hometown Bekasi on the outskirts of capital Jakarta.

He even went to Jakarta but all hospitals were full and unable to admit him.

Zafar’s oxygen saturation had dropped to below 90, but he had no choice other than staying at home.

His neighbours provided him with an oxygen tank, but he was still breathless.

“There was no progress. My chest still felt tight, and my saturation kept dropping to 85,” he told CNA on July 13.

Zafar was one of many in Indonesia who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 but could not access treatment in the hospitals due to overcapacity.

As the country continuously clogged record-breaking COVID-19 caseload, many regions experienced an increase of more than 200 per cent cases.

With more than 2.9 million COVID-19 cases and 77,500 deaths so far, Indonesia has overtaken India as Asia’s epicentre of COVID-19. On Wednesday (July 21), it reported 33,772 new infections and record-high 1,383 deaths.

Experts have expressed concerns that the actual caseload might be higher than the official numbers. They claimed that cases are not properly recorded and reported, and testing and tracing capacities remain limited.

Hospitals in Indonesia are almost full, said Dr Lia Partakusuma, secretary-general of the Association of Hospitals in Indonesia on July 5 in a hearing at the parliament, especially on Java island where the bed occupancy rate (BOR) of many hospitals has reached 90 per cent.

People have been urged to isolate at home unless they are severely ill. To ensure that people who are self-isolating at home still receive medical care, the government has launched free telemedicine services for patients with mild symptoms.

Patients who test positive for COVID-19 at a lab affiliated with the health ministry will receive a WhatsApp message which provides a link to the telemedicine service. Free medicine is also provided.

The programme has been launched in Greater Jakarta and will be extended to other areas, said the government.

Nevertheless, the response has been mixed with some finding it useful, but some complained that they did not receive a WhatsApp message from the health ministry.

There are also some who claimed that the WhatsApp message arrived days after they tested positive, which was too late.


Indonesia’s latest COVID-19 spike came after Idul Fitri’s holiday in mid-May where people’s mobility was high as many returned to their hometowns despite a travel ban.

The government had anticipated a spike in COVID-19 cases and added up to 72,000 isolation beds, about 20,000 of which were already occupied before the holiday.

A total of 7,500 intensive care unit beds, of which around 2,000 were occupied before Idul Fitri, were also added.

However, this year’s post-Idul Fitri COVID-19 cases spike is significantly higher than last year’s 60 per cent hike.

On May 13, the first day of Idul Fitri, a total of 3,448 daily COVID-19 cases were recorded. Two months later on July 13, the daily infections have multiplied by more than 13 times to 47,899.

The additional beds and the makeshift hospitals which the government had prepared filled up very quickly.


Category: Indonesia

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