Indonesia’s Covid-19 surge is on the edge of a “catastrophe” as the more infectious Delta variant dominates transmission and chokes hospitals, the Red Cross said on Tuesday, amid reports the country was set to impose a hard lockdown.
Indonesia has reported record daily Covid-19 infections of more than 20,000 in recent days, in a new wave of infections fuelled by the emergence of highly transmissible virus variants and increased mobility after the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Hospitals in several designated “red zone” areas have reported overcapacity, including the capital Jakarta, with its isolation beds 93 per cent occupied as of Sunday.
“Hospitals are full because of the case surge caused by mobility and loosening health protocol adherence, worsened also by the Delta variant,” said senior health ministry official Siti Nadia Tarmizi, when asked about the IFRC’s assessment.
The Delta variant was first identified in India and has been blamed for big spikes in infections in many countries. Indonesia is banking on mass vaccinations as a means of tackling the virus, but only 13.3 million of the 181.5 million targeted for inoculation have received the required two doses since January.
Indonesia’s health minister is leading a push for stricter controls as infections surge to unprecedented levels, sources familiar with government discussions have told Reuters.
Citing unnamed sources, The Straits Times newspaper on Tuesday reported the government in Jakarta will tighten restrictions starting on Wednesday, prohibiting restaurant dining and requiring negative polymerase chain reaction tests for domestic air travel.
India has authorised the emergency use of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine on as it seeks to ramp up inoculations in the wake of a record-breaking surge in infections and deaths.
The nation of 1.3 billion people was hit by a massive spike in coronavirus cases in April and May that pushed the healthcare system to breaking point.
Moderna’s shot is the fourth to be approved by New Delhi after Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covishield and Covaxin – which was developed by Indian firm Bharat Biotech – and Russia’s Sputnik V.
“I am pleased to inform that an application received from Moderna through an Indian partner of theirs, Cipla, has been granted EUA [Emergency Use Authorisation],” Vinod K. Paul, a member of government advisory body NITI Aayog, said at a health ministry briefing.
Paul added that the approval would pave the way for other foreign-made vaccines to be imported into India, with efforts to get Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson jabs ongoing.
A small number of Sputnik V shots were imported into India after the drug was approved in mid-April, but the majority are expected to be manufactured within the country, like Covishield and Covaxin.
India said two months ago that it would fast-track the approval of vaccines manufactured outside the country that have already been granted emergency use authorisation by major regulators such as the US Food and Drug Administration.
The government has been under pressure to speed up its flagging inoculation drive by allowing the import of foreign-made shots such as mRNA vaccines Pfizer and Moderna.
“We should have as many vaccines and alternatives as possible,” said Dr Rakesh Mishra, the former director of research body the Centre for Cellular Molecular Biology, who welcomed the approval.
Meanwhile, five gang members in India wore full protective gear to cremate a man they had murdered, pretending he died from Covid-19, police said on Tuesday.
The victim was invited to a party by the men, whom he owed 4 million rupees (US$54,000), and suffocated, according to police.
The gang wore full PPE and cremated the body at a facility in the northern city of Agra, registering the dead man under a false name, local police chief Muniraj G. said.
“To avoid being caught... they wore PPE kit and used a body bag to pack and transport the body to the cremation ground,” Muniraj G. said on Twitter. “All the five accused have confessed to their crime.”
A tip-off from an informant led to the arrest of one of the men, according to a police statement.
Source: The Coronavirus Pandemic