Indonesia passed two million coronavirus cases Monday as infection rates soar and hospitals are flooded with new patients, prompting warnings that the Southeast Asian nation’s health crisis could spiral out of control.
The unwanted milestone comes after daily case rates more than doubled in recent weeks and authorities identified the presence of highly infectious Covid-19 variants.
On Monday, official figures showed that Indonesia had recorded a daily record high of 14,536 cases, taking the total to just over two million with nearly 55,000 deaths, among a population of nearly 270 million.
But those figures are widely thought to be a severe undercount, due to low testing and contact tracing – some experts have said that official cases may only be about 10% of the real number.
“It’s starting to bubble up to the surface, like a time bomb,” said Windhu Purnomo, an epidemiologist at Indonesia’s Airlangga University.
“This is just the beginning. Depending on how things are handled, we could end up with a major explosion like in India.”
Case numbers are spiking as Indonesia grapples with new virus strains, including the highly infectious Delta variant first identified in India.
The rise has also been blamed on millions traveling across the Muslim-majority nation at the end of Ramadan, despite an official ban on the annual migration.
Hospital occupancy rates have soared to more than 75% in Jakarta and other hard-hit areas, while funerals for Covid-19 victims have also reportedly jumped.
“It’s worrying,” Jakarta resident Rahmani said at a cemetery where he attended the funeral of a relative who died of the virus.
“As good citizens we have to follow government orders to obey health protocols.”
Widespread rule-breaking on mask-wearing and other health protocols, as well as vaccine skepticism, are among factors cited for the worsening situation.
The World Health Organization has called for tougher movement restrictions.
Indonesia’s government, widely criticized for a weak pandemic response, said Monday it would temporarily beef up restrictions in the capital Jakarta and other hot spots – but enforcement has been lacklustre.
While Indonesia has not put major cities under the kind of strict measures rolled out in some virus-hit nations, dozens of communities in Central Java’s Kudus regency were put into lockdown after the Delta variant was spotted in local testing samples.
And a rash of severe cases in inoculated medical workers has raised questions about the China-produced Sinovac jab, which Indonesia is heavily relying on to vaccinate more than 180 million people by early next year.
This month, more than 300 vaccinated doctors and healthcare workers in Central Java were found to have been infected with Covid-19, with about a dozen hospitalized.
Nearly 1,000 Indonesian health workers have died from the virus since the pandemic started.