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Asia Pacific

Volunteer ambulance drivers help take the strain on Indonesia's COVID frontline

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Ambulance driver Sunaryo, 53, gets ready outside the Human Initiative office to pick up a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as cases surge in Depok, on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana

JAKARTA, July 14 (Reuters) - As Indonesia's health service struggles to cope with soaring coronavirus infections, volunteer ambulance drivers like Sunaryo have been working flat out to bring infected patients to and from hospitals.

Hit by the highly contagious Delta variant, the Southeast Asian country reported a record 54,517 cases on Wednesday, up nearly tenfold on the start of June.

"I definitely feel scared (about being infected)... But this is for humanity and I'm doing this from my heart," said Sunaryo.

Dressed in protective gear, the 51-year-old - who uses one name - has been a volunteer for the Human Initiative, an Indonesian-based charity, for two years in the capital Jakarta.

"My job is to pick up COVID-19 patients who are going to do isolation to the hospital and also to bring them home," he said.

Working alongside government ambulances, the volunteers are playing a vital role in supporting the creaking public healthcare service on Java, Indonesia's most densely populated island.

"The spike in cases of COVID-19 that happened here in Java island and mostly in Jakarta cannot be handled by the government alone," said Sobari, who coordinates the volunteer ambulance drivers.

The team can get up to 80 calls per day from patients desperate to get to a hospital, though it only has the resources to help 30, he said. "Support from people and volunteers like us also is a must, and we can end the pandemic faster," Sobari added.

Writing by Ed Davies; editing by John Stonestreet

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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