Jakarta (ANTARA) - For healthy people, oxygen is everywhere, free and taken for granted. But, for COVID-19 patients in Indonesia, medical oxygen has become a precious and life-saving necessity amid a devastating new wave of infections triggered by the highly infectious Delta variant.

In the latest infection spike, pneumonia and low blood oxygen levels, or hypoxaemia, have been common in patients.

COVID-19 affects patients' respiratory system and causes shortness of breath as it disturbs the function of the lungs to allow the body to absorb oxygen from the air and expel carbon dioxide.

According to the task force for COVID-19 handling, Indonesia on July 20, 2021 added 38,325 confirmed cases, bringing the total tally so far to 2,959,058.

With 29,791 daily recoveries, the total number of people recovering from the infection touched 2,323,666. Meanwhile, 1,280 people succumbed to the virus in a single day, bringing the death toll since the start of the pandemic in Indonesia on March 2, 2020 to 76,200.

To curb the infection surge, the government imposed emergency movement restrictions on the islands of Java and Bali from July 3 to July 20, 2021. With the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continuing to remain high, the emergency restrictions have been extended further until July 25.

Related news: Government extends emergency mobility restrictions until July 25

The spike in COVID-19 cases in Indonesia has led to a fivefold increase in the country's daily oxygen requirement from 400 tons to two thousand tons.

"We have reported to the cabinet that the demand for oxygen has increased very rapidly from 400 tons per day. Now it has increased to almost two thousand tons per day," Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin informed at an online press conference on July 16, 2021.

On July 5, 2021, Maritime Affairs and Investment Coordinating Minister Luhut B. Pandjaitan, in his capacity as coordinator of the emergency restrictions, said that the availability of medical oxygen cylinders matters and must be addressed immediately.

The daily oxygen demand in Jakarta, West Java, Central Java, Yogyakarta, East Java, Banten, and Bali has reached 2,032 tons, comprising 714 tons for intensive care rooms and 1,318 tons for isolation rooms, according to data from the health ministry.

Minister Sadikin recently highlighted three strategies prepared by the government to boost medical oxygen supplies.

The first strategy entails importing 600-700 tons of oxygen per day, the second involves utilizing oxygen oversupply of 360-460 tons per day from domestic industries, and, the third encompasses importing oxygen concentrators for hospitals and households.

The minister highlighted that the annual production capacity of the nation's oxygen industry is 866 thousand tons, of which 638,900 tons, or 75 percent, is utilized by industries and 27 percent by hospitals.

According to the Health Ministry, the nation's daily oxygen requirement for hospitalized and self-isolating COVID-19 patients is pegged at 1,928 tons, , while the daily production capacity is 2,262 tons.

To meet the nation's daily oxygen needs, the government is converting 575 thousand tons of oxygen for industries into medical oxygen. It has also decided to import oxygen concentrators, medical oxygen, and oxygen cylinders from China and Singapore.

Related news: Govt, private firms unify efforts to fulfill oxygen demands: President

To support Indonesia in the fight against the COVID-19 spike, SOEs, private companies, and several countries have continued to provide oxygen assistance.

State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Minister Erick Thohir has assured that SOEs are willing and ready to support the government in dealing with the pandemic.

As of July 11, 2021, SOEs have deployed at least 27 ISO tank containers to supply medical oxygen to hospitals, particularly in Central Java and Yogyakarta, which are in dire need of oxygen, he said.

Thohir has instructed state-owned enterprises, including Pertamina and state fertilizer holding company PT Pupuk Indonesia to convert their tank trucks for transportation of up to 540 tons of medical oxygen per day.

Pertamina has installed a 20-ton ISO oxygen tank at Jakarta Hajj Dormitory (Asrama Haji) located in Pondok Gede as the government has deemed it an emergency hospital for treating COVID-19 patients with mild and moderate symptoms.

The state oil and gas company has so far helped transport and distribute at least 400 tons of oxygen to hospitals in Jakarta, West Java, Central Java, Yogyakarta, and East Java.

Recently, the government received 11 thousand oxygen concentrators (OC) from the Temasek Foundation and 15 Indonesian and Singaporean companies -- Bakti Barito Foundation, Cikarang Listrindo, Dharma Satya Nusantara, East Ventures, Indies Capital Partners, Kino Indonesia, Sinar Mas, Tanoto Foundation, TBS Energi Utama, Triputra Group, UID Foundation, Wahana Artha, CapitaLand Hope Foundation, DBS Bank, and Singtel.

Several countries have sent assistance to help Indonesia deal with the oxygen shortage, including the United States (US), the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Australia, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan.

Related news: Ministry prioritizes receiving oxygen from Singapore for Java-Bali

Meanwhile, public-listed tire manufacturer PT Gajah Tunggal Tbk and the Endeavor Peaceful Indonesia (UID) Foundation have donated two thousand tons of liquid oxygen to the Health Ministry.

State-run Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital (RSCM) in Central Jakarta has been the first facility to receive the donated oxygen, according to information accessed by ANTARA on the Indonesian Health Ministry's official website on Tuesday.

Under the first phase, 20 tons of liquid oxygen were provided to RSCM, Indonesia's national referral center for government hospitals and a leading teaching hospital.

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has lauded domestic industries for their participation in efforts to meet the requirement for medical oxygen.

Indonesia has so far received assistance from several countries, including the United States, the Netherlands, Australia, South Korea, Japan, Great Britain, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, India, and China, according to the foreign ministry.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi has, on several occasions, reiterated the significance of global solidarity and cooperation in the fight against the pandemic.

"No one is safe until everyone is," the minister has affirmed.

Related news: Foreign aid starts arriving to help Indonesia fight COVID surge

Editor: Suharto
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