Desperate Indonesians look for oxygen as virus cases surge

Jakarta, Indonesia (AP) — 17-year-old Lido Milhasan goes to find oxygen on Wednesday with his aunt, who was out of breath at home with a COVID-19 infection. It was.

After his uncle sought out an empty tank from a friend, Milhasan found an oxygen filling station in southern Jakarta, waited for a long line of other people in desperate need, and three hours later triumphantly with the necessary supplies. Appeared.

“My aunt was in great need of this oxygen,” he said before tying the oxygen container to his little scooter. “This pandemic is becoming miserable.”

Coronavirus is once again widespread throughout Indonesia, and Wednesday is the most deadly day in Indonesia since the pandemic began, with 1,040 reportedly dead. Hospitals explode beyond capacity and lack oxygen supply, so people like Milhasan have to do what they can at home to take care of their sick friends and relatives.

In the case of Milhasan, there was no other option. After a positive COVID-19 test, my uncle tried to take my aunt to multiple hospitals in Jakarta, but was told to turn her back and find an oxygen cylinder to help her at home. It was.

“COVID-19 patients had a hard time getting proper medical services. Now they have to find their oxygen,” Milhasan said.

Over the past two weeks, the 7-day moving average of new cases per day in Indonesia has more than doubled from 4.72 new cases per 100,000 people on 22 June to 9.85 on 6 July. The daily death toll went from 0.11 to 0.20 per 100,000.

Despite new blockades and commitments from the government to provide more hospital beds and equipment, there are no signs that this trend is slowing.

“This is our important time in the next two weeks,” Indonesian government minister Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, who is in charge of the pandemic response, told reporters Tuesday. He promised to act swiftly to provide more hospital beds, medical equipment, and oxygen.

Ngabila Salama, head of oversight and immunization at the Jakarta Department of Health, said daily burials have increased tenfold in the capital since May. Of the 369 COVID-19 deaths reported in Jakarta on Saturday, 45 died at home, she said.

“I’m worried that this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said LaporCOVID-19, an independent viral data group tracking deaths at home, noting that many have not been reported. “This must be addressed immediately to prevent more people from dying outside the medical facility.”

Overall, Indonesia, the fourth most populous country in the world, reports about 2.4 million infections and about 63,000 deaths from COVID-19. These numbers are widely considered to be significantly underestimated due to poor testing and inadequate tracing.

In a medical system struggling to cope with an ever-growing number, oxygen is not guaranteed, even for patients who are lucky enough to get a hospital bed.

Over the weekend, at least 33 patients with severe coronavirus infections died after the central supply of liquid medical oxygen was cut off at a hospital in Yogyakarta.

The Indonesian Hospital Association said the problem was widespread and that the oxygen supply in many hospitals was almost empty overnight before the morning supply was delivered.

“We need a government guarantee that the distribution of medical oxygen will reach the hospital in time as needed,” said Leah Partaxma, Executive Director of the Association.

Throughout Java, Indonesia’s most populous island, hospitals began building tents as makeshift intensive care units in mid-June, waiting days for many patients to be hospitalized. For those who were lucky enough to receive the oxygen cylinders, oxygen cylinders were deployed on the sidewalk, but others were told they had to find the oxygen cylinders themselves.

Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin gave Parliamentary Commission overseeing health issues Monday a special forces for his ministry to deal with oxygen supplies amid a dramatic surge in incidents in Java and Bali. He said it was founded.

“We have identified the need for oxygen in each hospital and have set up an oxygen task force in each state,” Sadikin said in a virtual hearing with lawmakers.

According to Sadikin, the Ministry of Industry is required to devote 90% of its oxygen production to medical oxygen, with the current 25% being produced for industrial purposes. According to government data, the daily requirement for COVID-19 patients is 1,928 tonnes per day, and the country’s total available production capacity is 2,262 tonnes per day.

He said that oxygen deficiencies in some areas were primarily due to distribution that was not keeping up with the surge in demand, and the government “everything to fix it and speed up distribution to virus-infected areas. I will make an effort. “


Associated Press writer Edna Tarigan and photographer Achmad Ibrahim contributed to this report.

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