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COVID-19 battered Indonesia grateful for vaccine donations

COVID-19 battered Indonesia grateful for vaccine donations

Indonesia welcomed arrival of 1,113,600 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on Monday (March 8, 2021). The shipment is part of the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (COVAX AMC), a global initiative to support equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.  It was the first shipment of the total of 11,704,800 Indonesia is slated to receive from COVAX AMC. (HO-UNICEF)

Indonesia has been struggling in the fight against the second COVID-19 wave triggered by the new Delta variant that has increasingly overwhelmed the country's healthcare facilities over the last several weeks.

Despite all-out efforts made by authorities and healthcare workers, the daily count of new COVID-19 cases has continued to spike significantly. The number of new cases hit another record, at 29,745, on July 5, 2021, taking the tally to 2,313,829 cases.

The COVID-19 Response Task Force reported that with 14,416 people recovering from COVID-19 in a single day, the total count of recoveries had reached 1,942,690 since the first infections were reported in the country in March 2020.

Some 558 people succumbed to the infection in a single day, bringing the death toll to 61,140.

The number of active cases, or patients receiving treatment and conducting self-isolation, reached 309,999, while the number of suspected cases stood at 79,808.

Jakarta recorded the highest single-day surge in cases at 10,903, followed by 6,971 in West Java, 3,447 in Central Java, 1,543 in East Java, 1,465 in Yogyakarta, and 541 in Banten.

To curb the spike, the government has imposed emergency measures to restrict the people's activities in Java and Bali on July 3-20, 2021.

The national vaccination program has also been expedited by administering over one million vaccine jabs in a day to meet the nation's target of inoculating 181.5 million people in order to develop herd immunity by the end of this year.

As of July 5, 2021, over 14 million Indonesians had been fully vaccinated, while some 32.3 million others had received the first shots.

As of June 20, 2021, Indonesia had received 104,728,400 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, comprising 94.5 million doses of CoronaVac bought from China's Sinovac, 8.228 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine received from the WHO-coordinated COVAX Facility, and two million doses of China's Sinopharm vaccine bought by the private sector to support the government's vaccination campaign.

While the nation is racing against time to save lives from the pandemic, vaccines donations by foreign countries which have, so far, included Japan, the US, the Netherlands, and Australia, are highly appreciated.

On July 1, 2021, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin thanked the governments of Japan, Australia, and the United States for providing vaccines and monetary assistance to support Indonesia's fight against COVID-19.

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Indonesia received 2.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from Japan. "The AstraZeneca vaccines are the grant and donation from the government of Japan. This is not the last. There will likely be another (vaccine consignment from Japan),” Sadikin remarked.

The US government has pledged to provide four million doses of the Moderna vaccine to Indonesia.

The Australian government has donated 77 million Australian dollars to help Indonesia procure at least 10 million vaccine doses through the COVAX facility.

Following a meeting with Dutch Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi had stated on July 1 that The Netherlands had pledged to donate three million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Indonesia.

Indonesia is direly in need of support from various parties, as hospitals and healthcare workers, the frontliners in the fight against the new coronavirus, have been overwhelmed with the drastic surge in new cases.

The central and regional governments have readied several buildings, such as sports stadiums, flats, hotels, and dormitories, to accommodate patients, as hospitals have been overloaded with patients being accommodated in lobbies, aisles, and any possible spaces with minimal facilities.

Oxygen is running out, and the government is considering importing it, while a shortage of ventilators is being experienced.

The government has offered telemedicine services for those infected with COVID-19 and conducting self-isolation at home. Free medicines are later delivered to them.

Several people infected with COVID-19 have been compelled to stay at home, as they failed to find hospitals to accommodate them, and several of them had died at home owing to delay in medical treatment.

The most worrisome aspect is that several healthcare workers, including doctors and nurses, had contracted COVID-19, some of whom had fallen ill and even succumbed to the virus.

According to the Indonesian Medical Association (IDI), 405 doctors had died as of June 26, 2021. Since the national vaccination program started on January 13, 2021, the Indonesian government has prioritized healthcare workers by offering Sinovac's CoronaVac. However, several of them were infected after reeling from exhaustion following protracted working hours.

The absence of healthcare workers after having contracted the COVID-19 infections had often forced temporary closures of hospitals and community health centers, such as in Bogor, West Java.

Some 336 healthcare workers contracted COVID-19 and fell ill, thereby leading to the Bogor municipality taking the decision to shut down eight healthcare facilities, the city's mayor, Bima Arya Sugiarto, stated on June 26, 2021.

In Surabaya, East Java, at least four private hospitals had decided to temporarily stop receiving patients due to overcapacity and several of their healthcare workers having contracted the virus.

In Jemursari Islamic Hospital (RSI) in Surabaya, for instance, 51 healthcare workers and employees were infected.

In the meantime, experts have forecast that this precarious situation is far from over, as the peak is expected in late August.

Hence, Minister Retno Marsudi has been consistently lobbying several countries to help Indonesia overcome the problem.

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Marsudi has urged India to relax permits for the exports of therapeutic medicines to Indonesia amid the spike in COVID-19 infections. She conveyed the request to Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on the sidelines of the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Italy on June 28, 2021.

Apart from India, she had earlier communicated with the Japanese government on the issue of sharing of vaccine doses. During a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, Marsudi also explored cooperation for the procurement of therapeutic drugs.

She also recently held discussions with Dutch Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag regarding Indonesia's requirements for therapeutic drugs.

During the tough times that Indonesia is currently undergoing, the adage of "a friend in need is a friend indeed" holds increasing relevance.

The Delta variant is highly infectious and fatal. Hence, Indonesia, the world's fourth-most populous nation, with a population of over 270 million, is looking for all possible help that it can get.

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