Jakarta. The number of coronavirus-related deaths has been rising dramatically in Indonesia since early December, prompting the government to look for a different approach that can slow down the casualty toll as the country is on the brink of a health system meltdown.
The virus has killed more than 10,700 people in Indonesia since Dec. 1, representing 39 percent of the total number of casualties since the outbreak started in early March.
The last time Indonesia reported fewer than 100 Covid deaths in a day was on Nov. 21.
But the government is confident that the situation can be turned around with the implementation of new strategies.
“We are optimistic that efforts to increase the quantity and quality of services, especially for active case care, can reduce death rates,” Wiku Adisasmito, Indonesia’s national Covid-19 task force spokesperson, told Jakarta Globe in a recent interview.
As hospitals approach 70 percent capacity, the Ministry of Health has issued a circular urging hospital owners across the country to allocate up to 40 percent of beds for Covid-19 patients.
The government also plans to significantly increase active healthcare workers and implement convalescent plasma therapy to accelerate patient healing time, among other measures, he said.
Although Indonesia is imposing its own lockdown, it is a completely different picture to, for example, what took place in Melbourne.
Wiku, who is also an epidemiologist with the University of Indonesia, said several regions in Java and Bali that have rates of active cases and deaths above the national average, recovery rates below the national rate, or bed occupancy rate (BOR) capacity above 70 percent are required to lockdown.
“The PPKM (Implementation of Restrictions on Community Activities) in each region has been continuously monitored by the Central Task Force through regular coordination with the regional Task Force,” he said.
The government has intensified preventive efforts through regional task forces which regulate behavioural change, and are otherwise expanding testing coverage, achieving testing targets in accordance with WHO standards.
It recently set a Rp 900,000 ($64) price ceiling for Covid-19 swab tests, after claims that some private hospitals were charging patients up to Rp2 million.
Testing for Covid-19 is free at government hospitals on the condition that patients present symptoms, he said. Private hospitals in Jakarta have been charging patients almost double in order for them to get a test result sooner, which usually takes several days.
Government officials predict that the pandemic will soon come under control in Indonesia, with the first vaccination rollout taking place on January 13.
The first to be vaccinated have been medical workers and representatives of public officials and community and religious leaders to show the government’s commitment in providing safe and effectively proven vaccines.
“We refrain from looking at this pandemic through a negative lens, we rather hope that the Covid-19 pandemic can produce lessons to improve preparedness in facing emergency situations,” Wiku said.
“There are still other emerging infectious disease threats that we may need to face in the future. Hopefully, when we are faced with other pandemics, Indonesia will be more alert and mitigate the risk as effectively as possible.”
In Indonesia, 6.5 million people have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. The country has entered into a recession with over 7 million entering poverty by the end of 2020.