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Indonesia passes grim milestone of over 100,000 Covid-19 deaths

Call for probe into how authorities responded to recent virus surge

JAKARTA: Indonesia recorded a grim milestone of more than 100,000 deaths from Covid-19 yesterday, data from the country's Health Ministry showed, with the nation recently accounting for one in five fatalities globally.

Indonesia has been battling a tide of infections and deaths driven by the highly contagious Delta variant for the past month, and the country has quickly become Asia's coronavirus epicentre.

Yesterday, the data showed Indonesia's total number of infections had reached 3.53 million, while deaths rose by 1,747 to 100,636, although public health experts believe the true toll is likely far higher.

"Indonesia needs a comprehensive audit of Covid deaths," said Dr Defriman Djafri, an epidemiologist at Andalas University in Padang, West Sumatra, citing a sub-optimal healthcare response.

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Delays in hospital treatment that could have caused deaths and the rate of co-morbidity should be investigated, he added.

The total number of fatalities in Indonesia was about 50,000 at the end of May, meaning that it has doubled since then.

Testing and tracing shortfalls have further exacerbated the death toll, said Dr Masdalina Pane from the Indonesian Epidemiologist's Association.

"Patients come to hospital in a severe or critical condition," she said, adding: "They come to hospital to die."

The country has the 12th highest cumulative death toll from the virus globally, behind countries such as the United States, India and Brazil, according to data collated by a Reuters Covid-19 tracker.

It currently leads the world in the daily average number of new deaths reported, accounting for one in every five deaths.

Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said this week there were positive signs Indonesia's devastating second wave had peaked, especially in parts of densely populated Java island, although concerns remain for other regions, and remote islands in particular.

Even as cases have started to taper in some areas, President Joko Widodo has said that social mobility restrictions introduced early last month would remain in place until Aug 9 in designated areas, including in Jakarta.

Launching an ambitious campaign in January to inoculate 208 million people by next year, it has so far vaccinated less than 11 per cent of that target, hampered by supply and logistical issues as well as vaccine hesitancy.

In a bid to speed up the roll-out, the Health Ministry said this week that people without an identity card would also be able to get vaccinated, a move intended to reach the country's most vulnerable.

The country's spending on fighting the outbreak could exceed 300 trillion rupiah (S$28 billion) this year, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said yesterday.

Indonesia had earmarked 214.95 trillion rupiah to fight the virus in recently revised spending plans, but the devastating impact of the Delta variant could increase that figure by as much as 40 per cent.

"That is an incredibly large number," she said during an online seminar. - REUTERS

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