Indonesia reports record COVID-19 deaths as criticism of response grows

  • Tighter curbs in place in Java and Bali due to jump in cases
  • Authorities monitoring 43 other areas deemed "red zones"
  • Stocks of portable oxygen run out in six cities on Java-official
  • Doctors question plan to add hospital beds amid staff shortages
  • Indonesia reports over 1,000 deaths, a new daily record

JAKARTA, July 7 (Reuters) - Indonesia reported on Wednesday more than 1,000 coronavirus deaths in a day for the first time, as a surge in infections overwhelmed parts of the hospital system in densely populated Java and with portable oxygen supplies running out in six towns.

The spike in fatalities comes amid concerns about the new outbreak spreading across the archipelago, prompting authorities to monitor daily cases and bed occupancy in 43 areas deemed "red zones" and urge strict implementation of mobility curbs.

"This is to suppress infections, to prevent a big surge like what's happening in Java," Airlangga Hartarto, Indonesia’s chief economic minister, told reporters.

The world’s fourth most populous nation has implemented its tightest restrictions so far on Java and Bali islands after an exponential jump in COVID-19 cases, fuelled by the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, first identified in India.

Still, with bigger outbreaks now occurring in places like Papua and Sumatra, regional leaders have been urged to implement curbs, including ensuring offices and malls operate at 25% capacity, and restaurants and malls close by 5 pm.

On Wednesday, Indonesia reported 34,379 infections and 1,040 deaths, both records, with fatalities up nearly six-fold from the daily number at the end of May.

With criticism growing over Indonesia's response, an alliance of non-governmental organisations, including Amnesty International Indonesia and the Legal Aid Institute, called on the government to apologise for mishandling the COVID-19 crisis.

Authorities on Wednesday threatened to revoke licences of companies staying open and issued guidelines on office capacity for critical businesses after raiding dozens of companies for flouting rules.


The spike in cases has fueled a growing sense of anxiety about Indonesia's fragile healthcare system and its capacity to handle an unfolding health crisis.

On social media, messages pleading for help to find oxygen tanks and hospital beds have circulated, as hospitals across Java edge closer to full capacity.

The government has set up an oxygen refilling station in Jakarta to supply hospitals and said that all oxygen produced in the country will be diverted for medical use.

But stocks of portable oxygen had run dry in six cities on Java by Wednesday, including Yogyakarta and Solo, according to M. Hendry Setiawan, an official at the Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU).

Authorities have warned people against hoarding oxygen tanks and medical equipment, with more patients being treated, and sometimes dying, at home because they can’t find a hospital bed.

"Hospitals should be accepting patients that have tested positive because my brother has been rejected...and we don't know if we can take care of him at home," said Harfan Dani, 35, a resident queuing to buy oxygen.

This week, the health minister promised to boost telemedicine services for those isolating at home with milder symptoms, and add up to 8,000 more hospital beds.

But doctors have questioned how they can staff new facilities, with thousands of healthcare workers forced to isolate after contracting the respiratory disease, despite being vaccinated. read more

Australia pledged on Wednesday to donate oxygen-related equipment, test-kits and 2.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca (AZN.L)vaccine.

Additional reporting by Tommy Ardiansyah and Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by Ed Davies

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