July 25, 2021

Outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic in Indonesia

The Asia-Pacific region is facing a new wave of contaminations, under the pressure of the Delta variant. South Korea, which stood out in 2020 for its effective management of the health crisis, recorded its highest number of infections per day on Wednesday July 7 since the start of the pandemic (1,275). An important figure that undermines its contact case tracing system. Australia’s largest city, Sydney, is experiencing the highest number of contaminations in fourteen months, despite an orderly re-containment on June 26.

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It is in Indonesia, the fourth most populous country on the planet, that the situation takes the most worrying turn. The archipelago recorded 1,040 deaths from Covid-19 in a single day on Wednesday, double those recorded the previous week, and 34,379 new cases in twenty-four hours. The progression of the virus places the Indonesian health system at the breaking point: 33 patients died in a Yogyarta hospital which suffered from an oxygen shortage, during the weekend of July 3 and 4.

In March, however, the government announced an ambitious campaign to vaccinate two-thirds of the 270 million Indonesians in fifteen months, relying in particular on the Chinese vaccine Sinovac. If the public authorities managed to maintain a high rate during the first days, the program ran into logistical difficulties in April of distributing the doses stored in Jakarta to provincial health centers and the suspension by India, so itself in the grip of a catastrophic wave of exports of AstraZeneca vaccine produced on its soil, on which Indonesia also counted on leaning.

Rumors on social media

The other epidemic that is hitting the archipelago is that of “fake news”, rumors on social networks and medical treatments with uncertain effectiveness. In the world’s largest Muslim country, some of the most influential religious authorities, such as the Council of Ulemas, have questioned the legality and halal character injection, claiming that the vaccine contained elements from pig pancreas – something AstraZeneca and Chinese laboratories have had to deny. To encourage the population to come, some municipalities now offer chickens to the elderly who come to be vaccinated.

The population is rushing more on ivermectin, an antiparasitic treatment which influential figures, including within the government, have promoted against Covid, even though its producer, the Merck laboratory, has warned that its “Potential therapeutic effect against Covid-19 has no scientific basis”, and warned of the dangers of impromptu use. Not enough to dissuade the wealthy businessman Erick Thohir, ex-owner of Inter Milan, now minister of public enterprises, who supports his mass production for “Liberate Indonesia from this pandemic”.

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