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Jakarta Post

‘Chaotic’: Epidemiologists concerned about healthcare crisis after recent surge in COVID-19 cases

  • Budi Sutrisno

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sun, August 30, 2020   /   09:56 am
‘Chaotic’: Epidemiologists concerned about healthcare crisis after recent surge in COVID-19 cases Health workers conduct COVID-19 rapid tests on teachers at SMP 3 junior high school in South Tangerang, Banten, on Aug. 27. (JP/Seto Wardhana)

Epidemiologists have raised concerns over the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, which has led to a crisis at health facilities following the country’s consecutive long weekends that saw high mobility among the people.

The country recorded its biggest one-day rise on three consecutive days from Thursday to Friday. According to the Health Ministry, there were 9,030 new COVID-19 on those days.

Indonesia has recorded 169,195 confirmed cases as of Saturday, with 7,261 fatalities and 122,802 recoveries.

Pandu Riono, an epidemiologist from the University of Indonesia, said that the recent surge in cases was caused by the two long weekends for Independence Day on Aug. 17 and Islamic New Year on Aug. 20.

Read also: Indonesia sees record high in COVID-19 cases for third day running

Another epidemiologist from the University of Indonesia, Syahrizal Syarif, echoed Pandu’s statement, saying that COVID-19 was spreading faster than it ever had.

“It took 114 days for the first 50,000 cases, 33 days for another 50,000 and only 23 days for the other 50,000,” Syahrizal said on Friday. “We estimate that could reach 500,000 by the end of the year or early next year.”

He added that the country’s healthcare system was currently handling around 40,000 active cases nationwide. If the number of new cases continues to rise, it could put a burden on hospitals.

Hospitals in Jakarta, the hardest-hit province where the weekly positivity rate is around 10.1 percent, have been overwhelmed with new patients since authorities decided to ease restrictions and allow businesses to resume activities.

Data from the Jakarta Health Agency, as quoted by tempo.co, show that around 71 percent of the 483 intensive care units beds for COVID-19 patients across the capital had been occupied as of Aug. 23.

Syahrizal estimated that the country would need between 140,000 and 150,000 additional beds for new patients.

“The situation is chaotic and worrying due to the lack of compliance to health protocols. We need serious and large-scale steps,” said Syahrizal.

Read also: 'Pull the brake': Unease as more than half of COVID-19 beds in Jakarta in use

Despite calls from experts to pull the “emergency brake”, Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan decided to extend the transitional period of large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) to Sept. 10.

Syahrizal urged the city administration to enforce health protocols during the transitional PSBB, especially in regard to face mask usage in public. He also called on the central government to hold a massive campaign on wearing face masks and sanctions for violators.

Authorities in Jakarta are also raising awareness on the importance of face masks. On Friday, the South Jakarta Police and local military personnel distributed free masks for people found not wearing one at Kebayoran Lama Market, tempo.co reported.

Pandu urged health authorities to strengthen surveillance by pushing for more and better testing, large-scale contact tracing and isolation for people who test positive.

He acknowledged that it might be challenging to control transmission in the capital given that a large number of people from suburban areas come into the city for work almost daily.

“The central government can play an important role here. Good coordination with the local administration is necessary because this involves people’s mobility across administrative borders,” said Pandu. (kuk)