A health worker stands inside a makeshift ICU at Cengkareng Hospital in West Jakarta on June 24, 2021. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Indonesia Is in Uncharted Territory as Covid-19 Active Cases Break New Record


JUNE 27, 2021

Jakarta. Indonesia has more Covid-19 active cases on Saturday than any point in time since the pandemic began last year, placing the country in uncharted territory marked by overflowed hospitals and overstretched health workers.

The country added more than 13,000 new active cases on Saturday, bringing up the total active cases to 196,776, or about 10 percent higher than its last peak in January.  


The jump inactive cases figure was after tests on 21,095 people came back positive for Covid-19 on Saturday — a new record high in daily new cases, while 358 people succumbed to the disease and only 7,396 managed to recover. 

More than 56,000 people have died from the disease so far, with close to 2.1 million, or 0.8 percent of the country's population infected by the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus.  

Jakarta, West Java, and Central Java reported they only have less than ten percent of beds available. The bed occupancy rate in Jakarta hospitals was 93 percent. Nine in ten beds in the capital's neighboring provinces, West Java and Banten, were already full.

The situation was direr at the hospital level. Hundreds of hospitals in Greater Jakarta and Greater Bandung have to treat the patients in hospitals aisles and makeshift tents. Data from West Java's Covid-19 task force showed more than a hundred hospitals now treating more Covid-19 patients in isolation wards and intensive care units (ICU) than their total official capacity.  

Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin earlier told the hospitals to convert their emergency rooms into isolation wards to treat the patients. 

"For the emergency service, we have decided to build a tent outside the hospitals. Those who need treatment would enter the tents, not the emergency room, because this will be used to place additional isolation beds," Budi said on Friday. 

The ministry has also decided to convert fully three hospitals under the ministry's authority in Jakarta, including RSUP Fatmawati, RSPI Sulianti Saroso, and RSUP Persahabatan, to Covid-19 hospitals. Previously, only parts of the hospitals were designated for Covid-19 patients. Budi said he hoped the full conversion could complete by next week. 

In addition, the ministry also plans to upgrade facilities in Wisma Atlet Kemayoran — an apartment complex for 2018 Asean Games athletes turned into the country's largest isolation ward in Jakarta — for treating patients with moderate Covid-19 symptoms. 

Budi said those with mild symptoms would be treated in Nagrak and Pasar Rumput apartments buildings, also in Jakarta. The apartments have a total capacity of 7,000 beds, Budi said. 

Still, many hospitals across Indonesia said they lack health workers to treat new Covid-19 patients. Sri Nowo Retno, the head of the health department in Bogor, West Java, said almost all hospitals in the city reported some of their workers were unable to work in the past week as they caught Covid-19. 

"Many have been reinfected, affecting the services in public health centers, hospitals, and regional general hospitals [in Bogor]," Retno said.

Retno said many of the reinfected health workers had worked long shifts, increasing the chance of them being exposed to the virus, although many of them have been fully vaccinated. 

She said the only solution for the problem was for the city to increase the number of health workers. Still, Bogor found itself cornered in the market, competing for a limited number of candidates. 

"We are not the only region experiencing this spike. Many surrounding regions are experiencing the same condition," she said. 

Adib Khumaidi, the chairman of the Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI) executive board, said the pandemic had killed 315 nurses, 25 laboratory personnel, 43 dentists, 15 pharmacists, and 150 midwives since last year.

He said 401 doctors have died due to Covid-19 by June, further stressing the country's underserved health system, which has only 4 doctors to serve 10.000 people before the pandemic. 

“So at one point, we can enter a state of chaos or collapse. I'm not saying that the system has collapsed now, but what is clear now is that the potential exists," he said.

To prevent more health workers dies in the pandemic, the government said that hospitals must prioritize treating the health workers before anyone else. 

"I instruct all hospitals to prioritize health workers. If there are health workers who catch Covid-19, they must be served as well as possible," Minister Budi said. 

Still, Budi remained confident that Indonesia could ride out the Covid-19 latest spike. "As long as we can work together, we should be able to overcome it. As long as the energy we have is focused on overcoming the pandemic, so we don't spend a lot of energy blaming each other," Budi said.