Red Cross warns of emerging COVID crisis in Indonesia

The Indonesian Red Cross warned today that the country is on the edge of a COVID-19 catastrophe, with a surge of Delta variant-fueled infections overwhelming hospitals in Jakarta and other parts of the country.

In other international developments, Africa’s COVID-19 cases rose again for the seventh week in a row, and deaths in Brazil—which has endured many months of high virus activity—crossed the 500,000 mark.

Indonesia struggling with oxygen supplies

In a statement today, the Indonesian Red Cross said less than 5% of the country’s adult population is vaccinated, and it needs 360 million doses to immunize at least 70% of the population. Meanwhile, the test positivity rate exceeds 20%, suggesting that the number of illnesses is likely to be widespread.

Sudirman Said, the group’s secretary general, said the Red Cross hospital in Bogor, West Java, is overflowing, with emergency tents set up to take in more patients.

Jan Gelfand, who heads the Indonesian delegation of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said the Delta (B1617.2) variant is pushing Indonesia closer to the edge of a COVID-19 catastrophe and fast action is needed to speed life-saving vaccine to countries like Indonesia.

Since the start of the pandemic, health officials have feared a large outbreak in the world’s fourth most populous country. Over the past week, Indonesia has reported daily record highs for new cases, with 20,467 more reported today, along with 463 more deaths, according to Reuters. Oxygen supplies are getting slim, and prices in Jakarta—where hospitals are near capacity— have more than doubled.

Africa cases up, along with deaths

In Africa, currently experiencing its third surge, COVID-19 cases rose for the seventh week in a row and are now near the peak of the second wave, the World Health Organization (WHO) African regional office said today in its weekly outbreaks and health emergencies report. Compared to the week before, cases were up 20% and deaths rose by nearly 17%.

South Africa is the main hot spot, reporting about 62% of last week’s new cases. Others reporting high infection numbers include Zambia, Namibia, Rwanda, and Uganda.

Health officials again reported high numbers of healthcare worker infections, with 541 new ones reported—nearly all from Namibia, Kenya, and Ethiopia.

Several countries have reported the Delta variant, and the Alpha (B117) and Beta (B1351) have been reported in 25 African nations.

If cases continue along the current trend, cases will pass the peak of the second wave in early July.

The WHO notes that only 1% of Africans have fully been vaccinated, compared to 46% in the United Kingdom, 45% in the United States, 29% in the European Union, and 15% in China.

Brazil’s deaths and cases on the rise

With Brazil’s death toll from COVID-19 topping 500,000 this week, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said today that it is boosting its response in the country to prepare for a third wave of infections. In a statement, it said that the country faces another devastating wave with the onset of winter and the health system challenged by the burden of other seasonal diseases.

MSF also said Brazil’s COVID response remains fragmented and decentralized. Officials from MSF said it’s difficult to tell if a third surge has started, because cases have never substantially dropped. Daily deaths have risen above 2,000 for the first time since May, and daily cases are above 70,000 again.

The group said it is already working in Para, Ceara, and Bahia states and is preparing a response in Paraiba state.

More global headlines

  • In Australia, officials ordered a circuit-breaker lockdown for Brisbane in Queensland state, plus the areas around it, lifting the number of state capitals in lockdown to four. The country is battling clusters of cases tied to the Delta variant.
  • The Philippines has extended its COVID measures until the middle of July, according to Reuters. Infection numbers have dropped in the Manila area, but cases are rising in some provinces.
  • The global total climbed to 181,410,735 cases, along with at least 3,929,409 deaths, according to the New York Times

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