Indonesia's health system on the brink as coronavirus surge looms

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26 March 2020

Indonesia has a significant deficit in hospital beds, medical staff and intensive care facilities as health experts warn that it is primed to become a new epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, APA reports citing Reuters.

Health experts say Indonesia faces a surge in coronavirus cases after a slow government response masked the scale of the outbreak in the world’s fourth most populous country.

Indonesia has recorded 686 cases but the data is seen as understating the scale of infections because of a low rate of testing and a high mortality rate. Indonesia has reported 55 deaths, the highest in Southeast Asia.

A study by the London-based Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases released on Monday estimates that as few as 2% of Indonesia’s coronavirus infections have been reported. That would bring the true number to as many as 34,300, which is more than Iran.

Other modellers are projecting that cases could rise to as many as 5 million in the capital, Jakarta, by the end of April under a worst-case scenario.

“We have lost control, it has already spread everywhere,” Ascobat Gani, a public health economist told Reuters. “Maybe we will follow Wuhan or Italy. I think we are in the range of that”.

The government says the impact of the virus will not be that severe.

“We won’t be like that,” said Achmad Yurianto, a senior health ministry official, referring to comparisons with outbreaks in Italy and China.

“What’s important is that we rally the people ... they have to keep their distance.”

Although only hundreds of people have been hospitalised for coronavirus, doctors told Reuters the health system was already under strain. Many health staff lack protective equipment, with one doctor telling Reuters how she had to wear a raincoat because there were no coveralls available.

In a sign of poor infection controls in hospitals and clinics, eight doctors and one nurse have died from the coronavirus, according to the Indonesian Doctors Association.

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