Indonesia has reached a grim milestone as more than 100,000 people died from the coronavirus, becoming the second country in Asia to breach that threshold.
After weeks of topping the world’s tally of daily Covid-19 deaths, Southeast Asia’s largest economy added 1,747 fatalities on Wednesday, according to data from the health ministry, bringing its total number to 100,636.
Indonesia joins 11 other countries — including Brazil and India — that have lost more than 100,000 lives in the pandemic that began last year, showing how the world’s epicenter for the virus is shifting beyond Europe and America to Southeast Asia. While Indonesia is adding fewer number of cases daily than the U.S., its lower vaccination coverage and less-equipped healthcare system have led to higher mortality rates from the virus.
Just 8% of Indonesia’s 270 million population are fully inoculated, compared with more than half in the U.S., according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker.
The death toll has risen frighteningly fast for Indonesia. More than a third of fatalities was recorded in July alone, when the highly transmissible delta variant took hold, overwhelming hospitals and depleting the supply of much-needed oxygen tanks. Most of the deaths were due to late treatment, as healthcare facilities could only take in the sickest patients despite setting up beds across parking lots and converting apartment buildings into isolation centers.
At least 2,837 people have died while isolating at home or outside of hospitals, as the government urged only those with severe cases to come to the overburdened health facilities, according to data compiled by crowdsourcing platform LaporCovid19.
In early July, the government imposed its strictest set of movement limits on the most populated island of Java and tourist destination Bali to curb the spread of the virus, before expanding similar restrictions to the rest of the country. Daily cases have since eased from the peak reached on July 15, especially in the capital Jakarta that had long been the local virus hotspot. Infections are now spreading through provinces beyond Java, including in East Kalimantan and Riau.
Indonesia seeks to quicken its vaccine rollout with a target of administering 2.5 million doses a day this month and the next, more than double the rate in July. Lack of supply remains the key hurdle. The majority of Sinovac Biotech Ltd. shots it’s relying on needs to be cultured from the bulk doses shipped by the Chinese manufacturer, a process that can take one to two months. The country’s just starting to receive shipments of Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc shots through Covax and bilateral deals.
As other countries grapple with vaccine hesitancy, most Indonesians are eager to be inoculated but lack access. Among those who haven’t had their shots, 80% said they’re waiting for a slot, are looking for available doses or haven’t been able to get the jabs for various other reasons, such as health conditions or lack of transport. More than 65% of those who have been vaccinated said they did so out of personal choice, followed by 31% who were told to by their workplace or other figures of authority, according to the July survey by the statistics agency.