Indonesia faces oxygen crisis amid worsening Covid wave


Oxygen reserves have been running out for days

The Indonesian government has ordered producers to prioritize medical oxygen amid a wave of Covid and oxygen shortages in a number of cities.

Hospitals say they have almost run out of supplies, with one reporting 63 patients have died from lack of oxygen.

Indonesia registers more than 25,000 new cases every day.

The increase in travel and the highly contagious Delta variant have exacerbated the crisis.

Indonesia has experienced the worst Covid outbreak in Southeast Asia, with around 2.3 million positive cases and more than 60,000 deaths to date.

However, experts warn that the overall numbers are potentially much higher due to grossly insufficient testing outside the capital Jakarta.

Containment has been announced on the country’s main island, Java, as well as on the tourist island of Bali last week.

“A warlike emergency”

On Monday, two hospitals in the city of Bandung announced that they had run out of oxygen and had to reject new patients seeking emergency treatment.

Over the weekend, emergency departments and intensive care units at public hospitals in the cities of Bandung, Surakarta and Pamekasan said they were grappling with an influx of people seeking admission, with some having to refuse. patients.

Others have set up tents outside.

“This is a war-like emergency,” said a woman seeking treatment for her elderly mother at the BBC’s Indonesian service. Her mother was initially rejected in a hospital that lacked beds and could only be admitted to a makeshift tent in another.


Some hospitals treat their patients outdoors in makeshift tents

At Bandung Regional General Hospital (RSUD), emergencies have been closed for Covid patients since July 2, with lack of oxygen being one of the reasons.

“Four days ago there was a shortage of oxygen from distributors and vendors,” hospital chief Mulyadi told the BBC over the weekend. “So four days ago I tried to make oxygen use more efficient.”

He added that producers are struggling to meet increased demand from hospitals.

“Every day a lot of people come, 10 to 15 Covid-19 patients, there are a lot of queues,” Dr Syaiful Hidayat from Smart Pamekasan Hospital told the BBC.

The pulmonologist says he initially set up an emergency tent for Covid patients, but was later forced to refuse some patients.


Demand also drives up prices

Health ministry official Siti Nadia Tarmizi said she asked the gas industry to increase production of medical oxygen and called on people not to accumulate.

“We hope people don’t fill up on oxygen,” she said, adding that this would only make the shortage worse for others.

His comments come as people tried to privately secure oxygen cylinders to treat patients at home.

New bottles and refills are hard to find and prices have doubled due to high demand.

“The brink of disaster”

In Jakarta, the daily number of burials under Covid protocols has increased tenfold since early May, the government announced on Sunday.

There are also a high number of infections and deaths among the country’s frontline medical staff, although most of them are vaccinated.

The country relies mainly on Chinese Sinovac jabs and experts are now considering giving a third dose to boost efficacy against the new Delta variant.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said last week that the country was “on the brink of a Covid-19 disaster”.

Meanwhile, from Tuesday, Indonesia will change entry rules for foreign visitors, only allowing fully vaccinated people who test negative for Covid, authorities said.

Incoming visitors will have to spend another eight days in quarantine upon arrival.


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