Indonesia copes with oxygen shortages as COVID cases quadruple

The government has asked oxygen producers to send all their supplies to hospitals as dozens die from shortages.

People queue to refill oxygen tanks as Indonesia experiences an oxygen supply shortage [Willy Kurniawan/Reuters]

Indonesia is struggling with one of Asia’s worst coronavirus outbreaks as new cases more than quadrupled in a month, prompting a critical shortage of oxygen in several areas.

At least 33 people died at a hospital in Yogyakarta when its supply ran out over the weekend and the government on Monday asked oxygen producers to send all their supplies to hospitals and clinics.

The highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 has led to a huge increase in infections across the country.

On Monday, Indonesia reported 29,745 new infections and 558 deaths, both daily records, after the government last week ordered new virus curbs in the hard-hit capital, Jakarta, across Java, and on holiday island Bali.

Mosques, parks, shopping malls and restaurants were shut in hotspot areas, while non-essential employees were ordered to work from home.

Bambang Harymurti, a public affairs analyst in Jakarta, told Al Jazeera the situation on the ground is getting worse.

“If you look around, many hospitals are either closed because they are so full they don’t admit any more patients and they are asking people to donate oxygens. The government is asking people not to buy oxygen because hospitals need them,” he said.

“And in fact, the authorities said the police might have to raid many places by Thursday if this situation where people are lining up to buy oxygens and essential medicine [continues]. Medicine prices are sky high now.”

Quadrupled caseload

The world’s fourth most populous nation has seen its daily caseload more than quadruple in less than a month and its tally stands at 2.3 million cases and 61,140 deaths.

But that figure is widely believed to be a severe undercount because of low testing and poor tracing measures.

Indonesia’s overwhelmed healthcare system has been teetering on the brink of collapse as jammed hospitals turned away patients, forcing desperate families to hunt for oxygen tanks to treat the sick and dying at home.

Daily COVID burials in Jakarta are up 10-fold since May, and patients are increasingly dying in isolation at home.

Independent virus data group LaporCOVID has said at least 269 people in 10 provinces have died while in self-isolation. Jakarta’s health agency said 45 people died at home on Friday alone.

There are no official national statistics on the number of COVID deaths at home.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies