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Coronavirus spike in Indonesia causes health experts to fear the worst is yet to come

The number of cases rose sharply in Java and Sumatra three weeks after the holidays following the month of Islamic fasting, when millions of people ventured across the archipelago, ignoring a temporary travel ban.

In Kudus, central Java, cases have skyrocketed since then, according to Wiku Adisasmito of the Indonesian Covid-19 task force. Health care reinforcements have been made, but hospital capacity has reached 90%, local media reported.

Defriman Djafri, epidemiologist at Andalas University in Padang, said the death toll in West Sumatra in May was the highest on record.

In Riau on Sumatra, daily cases more than doubled from early April to over 800 in mid-May, while the positivity rate was 35.8% last week, said Wildan Asfan Hasibuan, epidemiologist and counselor. of the provincial working group.

Wildan attributed the spike to increased mobility and possible spread of coronavirus variants, which resulted in big spikes in many countries.

The impact of variants is difficult to determine in Indonesia, which has limited genomic sequencing capacity.

The country also has testing and tracing gaps, and its vaccination campaign has progressed slowly, with one in 18 people targeted for inoculations fully vaccinated so far.

Recent studies have also indicated that the cases could be much higher than the nearly 1.9 million known infections, among the largest in Asia.

Dicky Budiman, an epidemiologist at Griffith University of Australia, said Indonesia should take the variants more seriously, especially the strain B.1.617.2, first identified in India, which he said was at its beginnings of propagation.

“If we don’t change our strategy, we will face an explosion of cases in the community, mortality will increase,” he said.

“This means that sooner or later it will reach the most vulnerable… we will be facing an explosion of cases that we cannot contain or respond to in our health facilities.”


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