Indonesia’s second virus wave has peaked, says health minister

A man wearing a protective face mask reacts as he receives a dose of a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) during a mass vaccination program at the Jakarta Convention Center building in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 31, 2021. REUTERS FILE PHOTO

JAKARTA — Indonesia’s devastating second coronavirus wave, which saw the Southeast Asian country become the epicenter of Asia’s COVID-19 outbreak, has peaked, its health minister said Monday.

Driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant, Indonesia has over the past month been faced with an exponential surge in coronavirus cases that has overwhelmed hospitals and seen COVID-19 deaths soar to record levels.ADVERTISEMENT

“We can already see that the peak has been exceeded, especially in areas in Java,” health minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin told an online news conference, referring to Indonesia’s most populated island.

“Improvements are starting to appear,” he added.

The spread of the Delta variant, first identified in India, saw Indonesia’s COVID-19 infections hit record highs. The country reported a record 56,757 cases on July 15, and a record 2,069 deaths on July 27.

But while daily cases numbers have started to decline, averaging 33,800 per day last week, the positivity rate remains high and there are fears that the Delta variant could still ravage regions beyond Java, particularly in remote areas with ill-equipped healthcare services.

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The health minister said the government must learn from experience and work faster to ensure the spread of the virus outside Java was sufficiently contained.

Indonesia has recorded more than 3.4 million cases and 95,000 deaths, although public health experts suggest the true figures are likely several times higher.

Budi said on Monday that most of those who had died from COVID-19 were unvaccinated.

Indonesia launched its national vaccination program in January, but ambitious targets have fallen short due to logistical constraints, supply issues and vaccine hesitancy.

As of Aug 2, less than 10% of the targeted population had been fully vaccinated, according to the health ministry.

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