Hospitals in Jakarta almost full as Covid-19 cases surge

Two-thirds of the 98 referral hospitals in Jakarta reported that occupancy in their isolation wards had exceeded 70 per cent. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - Hospitals in Jakarta treating Covid-19 patients are nearly full amid a surge in infections following several mass gatherings involving a controversial Islamist cleric and a recent five-day-long weekend.

Two-thirds of the 98 referral hospitals in the capital reported as of Thursday (Nov 26) that occupancy in their isolation wards had exceeded 70 per cent, while half were more than 80 per cent full, latest government data obtained by The Straits Times on Sunday showed.

Fifteen referral hospitals reported full occupancy.

Professor Wiku Adisasmito, a spokesman for Indonesia's Covid-19 task force, issued an urgent reminder on Friday calling on the public and the local authorities to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

He also called on local governments to crack down on those who flout social distancing rules "indiscriminately."

Prof Wiku's appeal came as Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan found himself under fire for failing to stop a mass event in Tanah Abang, in the capital, when thousands of mostly maskless supporters of Mr Rizieq Shihab, the leader of a vigilante group called the Islamic Defenders Front or FPI, gathered on Nov 14 to ostensibly attend the wedding of his daughter and at the same time commemorate Prophet Muhammad's birthday.

Deemed a Covid-19 red zone, the Indonesian capital has imposed a host of restrictions on social gatherings, known locally as PSBB. Among other things, gatherings are limited to five people and occupancy in restaurants capped at 50 per cent of capacity.

In an effort to prevent a recurrence of mass gatherings such as the one on Nov 14, the national government has come down hard on those who broke health protocols. Last week, organisers of the gatherings were hauled in for questioning, and two provincial police chiefs were removed from their posts.

The top police officials were blamed for failing to enforce safe distancing rules at the gathering as well as at the airport four days earlier when Mr Rizieq returned home from self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia. Thousands mobbed him at the airport.

Two provincial governors, including Mr Anies, were also interrogated by police.

The cleric also attracted a large crowd, many of whom breached health protocols, in Bogor, a satellite town to Jakarta, when he appeared at the ground breaking ceremony for the construction of a local mosque on Nov 11.

On Sunday, Indonesia reported a new daily record in Covid-19 infections with 6,267 cases. It is the worst-hit country for Covid-19 in South-east Asia with 534,266 infections and 16,815 deaths as of Sunday.

"I phoned 56 hospitals in Jakarta on Thursday to ask for a bed for Covid-19 treatment for a colleague, but they were all full. We finally got one after a patient died and one ward was available," Dr Tri Maharani was quoted as saying by Kompas, the country's most read daily.

Kompas said a similar situation was playing out in several other cities in Indonesia, such as Solo and Banyumas in Central Java.

Epidemiologist Joko Mulyanto of the Jenderal Sudirman University in Central Java province, said all isolation wards in the province's Banyumas regency were occupied.

Pulmonologist Robert Naiborhu at the Abdul Rivai Hospital in Berau, East Kalimantan province, said that his hospital was at full occupancy in the past week.

Indonesia had a five-day weekend between Oct 28 and Nov 1, whne many Jakartans and residents of other major cities left town on holidays or to visit family members. This was despite pleas for people to stay home.

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