A COVID-19 crisis has unveiled the highly contagious Delta variants through Indonesia, where health facilities have joined the pressure.
Cases in the world’s fourth most popular nation are on the rise killing doctors and children and it has become the new coronavirus epicenter, surpassing India despite having only a fraction of its population.
On Thursday alone, official figures revealed more than 49,500 new positive cases and the highest 1,449 deaths since the pandemic began.
But despite government efforts to close large islands, the death toll continues to rise as overnight work and coffin makers try to keep up with demand.
So how did Indonesia get here?
Mixed messages from above
Local epidemiologists have repeatedly criticized the Indonesian government for not following the advice of experts and scientists.
Last year, in the early days of the pandemic, then-Indonesian Health Minister Terawan Agus Putrantro attributed the low number of infections to prayer.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo promoted traditional herbal medicines and tried to prevent panic through unscientific positive stories.
He also proudly proclaimed the locally produced anti-malarial drug Chloroquine as “second-line protection” against the virus, despite the lack of scientific evidence.
Last year, the Ministry of Agriculture sold eucalyptus “antivirus” necklaces, which helped to kill the virus if worn for 30 minutes. The claim drew widespread ridicule and criticism before it was withdrawn.
The Minister of Maritime Affairs and Investment, Luhut Pandjaitan who is now in charge of coordinating the emergency response of Java and Bali had also mistakenly said that the virus could not survive in tropical climates.
He has admitted since the government “did not expect” cases to rise again in June.
“We have been warned [people and the government] how bad it can be done without any intervention from a while ago, “Indonesian epidemiologist Masdalina Panetold of ABC.
She said the COVID-19 issue in Indonesia was “complicated”.
Indonesia’s response has also been hampered by the low number of pieces of evidence due to the high priceof imported swab tests, and a national short of fans, personal protective equipment, and hospital beds.
Misinformation spread by the virus
Even as the virus continues to spread, some across the country still believe it to be a hoax.
Indonesian public health doctor CSP Wekadigunawan told the misinformation ABC had a “significant impact” on Indonesians.
“These scams have made people afraid they are positive for COVID,” she said.
A prominent epidemiologist at the University of Indonesia went so far as to call the situation “stupid” because of the combination of fake news through social media, contradictory messages from the government and a widespread reluctance to follow health protocols or to vaccinated.
A study released last month by the Yusof Ishak Institute(ISEAS) also fondant vaccine messages were often combined with Indonesian-government or anti-Chinese sentiment.
One of the study’s authors, Yatun Sastramidjaja, said it “shows the government’s chronic failure to gain public trust”.
To disseminate the information, DrWekadigunawan suggested that the government involve and educate all key members of religious groups and local communities to help disseminate relevant health messages.
Blocking reluctance and domestic tourism encourage
Mr Widodo and his administration have long been criticized in the country for putting the economy ahead of public health.
As many countries, including Australia, were preparing to close their borders when the virus first struck last year, Mr Widodo spent close to $ 8 million promoting domestic tourism and he kept inland borders open.
Mr Widodo tried to enforce a travel ban last year during the Eid al-Fitr religious holiday to prevent a mass exodus of people traveling to their regional homes.
But he stopped enforcing a deadlock, and two weeks later cases dropped by more than 60 percent, according to the government.
Authorities predicted a similar increase this year and imposed another ban, but cases increased by 50 per cent asmany found a way to circumvent the restrictions.
New emergency measures were announced on 1 July to contain alarming momentum in the cases.
Rather than a nationwide stalemate, Jakarta chose localized restrictions, particularly on the most populous island of Java and the holiday island of Bali.
Tracking contacts is no longer a priority
The most contagious Delta variant of the virus has hit hospitals across Southeast Asia and Indonesia has been the exception.
As the number of cases increased, so did the price of oxygen tanks.
Costs rose from an average of $ 66 to $ 185, before supplies became almost impossible to find.
Indonesia has relied on total virus mass vaccines, but only 16.4 million of the 181.5 million targeted for inoculations have received the two doses required since January.
Dr Pane, while involved with the government contact tracking team, also said vaccinations are not enough to contain the rampant spread.
She said tracking contacts, “a fundamental intervention used by many nations to control any form of epidemic”, “was no longer a priority for the government”.
“We managed to successfully control the numbers of infections between mid-November to the end of March this year in 13 provinces through contact tracking,” she said.
Throughout the pandemic, Indonesia has recorded more than 3 million cases and 79,000 deaths, according to official government figures.
But experts predict the number to be much higher than that reported due to limited testing.
ABC has contacted the Ministry of Health in Indonesia for comment.
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