Fourteen hours to collect a corpse in Jakarta as COVID toll mounts

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JAKARTA, June 23 (Reuters) - It took almost 14 hours to collect a COVID-19 corpse in Jakarta this week, police said, as the Indonesian capital scrambles to deal with a surge in coronavirus cases and deaths.

Police in the port area of Tanjung Priok said they responded on Monday to a call about a COVID-19 corpse, wrapped in a white shroud, left on the doorstep of a North Jakarta home.

Not authorised to handle coronavirus victims, officers called the local taskforce, but were told there would be a wait.

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“That body was eighth in the queue because the Jakarta COVID-19 taskforce was handling other victims,” said Ghulam Pasaribu, Tanjung Priok Police chief.

The body, he said, was collected at 1.30 am on Tuesday, more than 13 hours later.

It was one of 143 burials in Jakarta that day – the most since the pandemic began - according to Ivan Nurcahyo at Jakarta's parks department, which handles cemeteries and burials.

The same day in another part of town, a 69-year-old grandmother who tested positive had to take public transport to a hospital, after her family failed to find an ambulance, television station MetroTV said.

The stories offer a window into the strains on Indonesia’s fragile healthcare system as case numbers and deaths mount.

Indonesia recorded 14,536 new coronavirus cases on Monday, the highest daily increase since the pandemic began.

The country has identified 2,018,113 cases and 55,291 deaths, the highest in the region, although the true figures are likely far higher. read more

Public health experts attribute the spike to increased mobility over the Muslim Eid Al-Fitr holiday, and the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

More than 100 cases of the Delta variant have been identified across the archipelago, with outbreaks in Java pushing hospital occupancy past 90% in some areas.

Despite being fully vaccinated, at least 10 doctors have died from the disease, according to the Indonesian Medical Association, while hundreds have tested positive.

In Jakarta, cases are also rising. On May 22, Jakarta reported 932 new cases, but that more than tripled to 3,221 on June 22, according to official data.

Beds at ICUs in 140 COVID-19 referral hospitals in Jakarta were 81% full on June 20, while isolation rooms were at 90% capacity, said Dr Sulung Mulia Putra, from the Jakarta health agency.

"We still have to face a difficult test because these past few days the COVID-19 pandemic has flared up again," President Joko Widodo said on Wednesday. "This disease does not discriminate."

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Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Stanley Widianto in Jakarta, and Kate Lamb in Sydney; Editing by Giles Elgood

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