Health officials and researchers in Indonesia warned about the situation of the country which braces for a third wave of COVID-19 infections as the highly transmissible omicron strain drives a jump in new cases.
In the previous 24 hours, the government reported 11,588 new confirmed Covid-19 infections and 17 deaths. It was the most cases per day since August, when Indonesia was battling a delta-driven wave.
By December, Indonesia had recovered from previous year’s rise, which was among the worst in the region, and daily infections had dropped to around 200. However, only weeks after the country recorded its first local omicron transmission, infections are on the rise once more.
“The surge will be incredibly rapid.” “We will witness a substantial increase in the near future,” Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said at a press conference on Friday, adding that the current wave would likely peak at the end of February or early March.
He stated that the government has set aside extra beds for COVID-19 patients, increased tracing and testing, and increased vaccines in all regions. However, given the limited enforcement, several health experts worry that the measures will be sufficient.
Bed occupancy rates in Jakarta, the epicentre of the omicron outbreak, increased from 5 percent in early January to 45 percent on Saturday, according to Jakarta Deputy Governor Ahmad Riza Patria. He claimed that “omicron is advancing too fast” in the metropolis, where more than 80 percent of the 10 million citizens had been immunised.
Pandu Riono, an Indonesian epidemiologist and academic adviser to the government, said that the delta variant has left many Indonesians traumatised because many died in solitude at home or while waiting for emergency care because hospitals were overcrowded.
During last year’s spike, hospitals constructed improvised intensive care units out of canvas tents, and patients waited for days before being admitted. Oxygen tanks were laid out on the pavement for those who were fortunate enough to receive them, while others were told that they would have to locate their own supply.
Riono believes a third wave would be unlikely to strain Indonesia’s health-care infrastructure because omicron causes fewer severe symptoms than delta.