Indonesia Oxygen Covid-19
Indonesia is suffering from an oxygen shortage as Covid-19 and the Delta variant rip through the country.
Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana/Reuters
  • Indonesia is facing Southeast Asia's worst COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Hospitals, oxygen suppliers, and coffin-makers say they are being overwhelmed.
  • Many are concerned that Indonesia is facing a wave similar to India's Delta variant spike.
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The CEO of Indonesia's biggest oxygen supplier has died from COVID-19 as the country faces down Southeast Asia's worst coronavirus outbreak.

Arief Harsono, the founder of gas conglomerate Samator Group and chairman of various industry associations, died on Friday at a hospital on the eastern island of Java, according to his staff and colleagues.

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Prominent politician Rachmawati Soekarnoputri, daughter of Indonesia's founding father and first president Sukarno, also died on Friday after being treated for COVID-19.

COVID-19 cases and deaths in Indonesia continue to hit record highs, with Tuesday's daily count confirmed at 31,189 new cases and 728 deaths. The country has reported a total of 2.3 million coronavirus cases and 61,868 deaths to date. Only 8.6% of the country's population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Local watchdog LaporCovid-19 - a local citizen-reporting platform that works with scientists and relies on crowdsourcing - said the number of cases and deaths in Indonesia is likely much higher than reported, as official data only accounts for deaths confirmed to be COVID-positive through a swab test. Many people have died while displaying coronavirus symptoms but not having been swabbed, and others have died while self-isolating, LaporCovid-19 said. Hundreds of others have died while searching for medical facilities or waiting for emergency wards to open up.

A country in crisis

The wave of cases is overloading Indonesian hospitals, oxygen producers, and coffin-makers, who say they lack the necessary facilities and equipment to stem the tide of cases and deaths.

Hospitals have turned away patients after a shortage in oxygen supplies. More than 60 people died at a single hospital in Java over the weekend when the hospital ran out of oxygen on Saturday.

Indonesia Bikers Ambulances
Volunteer bikers escort an ambulance to a cemetery as Covid-19 cases surge in Depok on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia.
Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana/Reuters

Health authorities say Indonesia's spike is mostly fueled by the Delta variant. The mutated virus strain has contributed at least 90% of infections in the capital of Jakarta, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said on Monday.

Experts worry this could be the start of a surge like the one that struck India, where daily cases reached up to 400,000 in May.

Indonesian authorities maintained for months that the nation's oxygen supply was sufficient, but are now saying that they are preparing medical facilities for a worst-case scenario where daily cases reach up to 40,000. The government has set up tents to serve as makeshift wards and announced it would convert some spaces - including a pilgrimage dormitory - into COVID-19 isolation facilities and hospitals.

In Depok city, 13 miles south of Jakarta, road congestion has hindered medical staff from giving urgent COVID-19 treatment to the point that bikers have volunteered to escort ambulances and clear traffic, reported Reuters.

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