JAKARTA - Indonesia is converting more hospital beds to treat Covid-19 patients amid a surge in cases dominated by the Delta variant of the coronavirus.
Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin told a media briefing on Friday (June 25) that three major hospitals - the Persahabatan hospital, Fatmawati hospital and Sulianti Saroso hospital - in Jakarta will be converted into full Covid-19 hospitals and at least two major, newly built government subsidised housing complexes in the capital will be turned into facilities to treat patients with mild symptoms.
"We will have hundreds of new beds with full equipment, experienced medical doctors and nurses from just the addition of these three state hospitals," Mr Budi said.
"We will also convert emergency rooms in hospitals to facilities to treat Covid-19 patients, while emergency treatment will be moved to tents outside the hospitals," he added.
"We have 85,000 hospital beds reserved for Covid-19 across Indonesia currently and 60,000 of them are occupied," Mr Budi said, adding that this does not take into account the plan to convert the emergency rooms as well as the three major hospitals in Jakarta.
South-east Asia's most populous country saw Covid-19 cases surging past the two-million mark on Monday, reporting three record daily new cases this week.
On Thursday, the daily count went above 20,000 for the first time - previous two record figures were only in the neighbourhood of the 15,000 mark.
Instead of a large-scale lockdown, Indonesia has so far imposed only localised ones based on a colour-coded regime. Badly hit regions are labelled red zones and subject to tougher restrictions. Regions with fewer Covid-19 cases are labelled either orange or yellow.
“Indonesian cases have reached a high point... We are following the situation and are always monitoring what is going on in public and seeing what we can do to immediately address problems,” Mr Budi said.
He added that Indonesia has a total of 389,000 hospital beds across 34 provinces and the government has committed to converting up to 30 per cent of them, or 130,000 beds, into dedicated Covid-19 beds if the situation calls for it.
The health ministry is also gearing up to start inoculating people under 18. Indonesia has so far restricted Covid-19 jabs to those aged 18 and above.
“We are studying cases overseas such as in Europe, America (and) Asia on how they went about inoculating those under 18 and which groups within that age bracket will get doses. We are looking into their policy data, health science reports,” Mr Budi added.
On the supply of oxygen, the government has received a commitment from local suppliers to reallocate excess capacity earmarked for industrial purposes for medical purposes. West Java is home to the largest oxygen plant capacity in the country and could help meet the demand elsewhere.
Supplies may rise because Indonesia does not import canisters, but produces them locally, Mr Budi added.
Dismissing reports of a lack of oxygen supply, Mr Budi said that the high usage frequency in recent days requires more frequent refills and appealed to hospitals to increase refilling rounds instead of buying extra canisters.
“There is no need for any hospital to double or quadruple their canister stocks. Just do more refills.”