Indonesia sources oxygen supply, including from Singapore, to battle Covid-19 surge

Indonesians queueing at an oxygen filing shop to fill tanks for sick family members in Jakarta, on June 30, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Indonesia is bracing for the worst-case scenario of daily Covid-19 infections reaching over 40,000 by preparing backup health facilities and ordering oxygen supply from neighbouring countries including Singapore.

The country is struggling to contain the outbreak and keep its fragile healthcare system from collapsing. On Tuesday (July 6), the health ministry reported 31,189 new coronavirus infections and 728 deaths -- both daily records increases.

The South-East Asian country has recorded a total of 2,345,018 Covid-19 cases and 61,868 deaths, making it the worst hit country in the region.

With the outbreak expected to worsen, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Pandjaitan told a virtual press conference on Tuesday that Indonesia has made comprehensive preparations with respect to oxygen supply, medication and hospital facilities.

Indonesia has also "communicated with Singapore, China and other sources", he said.

"We have ordered 10,000 units of oxygen concentrator from Singapore, and some are on their way using Hercules aircraft," he added.

According to the World Health Organisation, an oxygen concentrator is an electrically-powered medical device designed to concentrate oxygen from ambient air.

Mr Luhut said the oxygen produced from these machines could help milder Covid-19 cases. Patients with more serious symptoms such as those in intensive care units would receive medical oxygen which has been converted from industrial oxygen.

"We have envisioned the worst-case scenario. If cases exceed 40,000, what shall we do about the supplies of oxygen, medication, and hospital needs? We have made calculations."

"Please do not underestimate that Indonesia is unable to manage the problem. For now we are able to. If cases reach 40,000, or 50,000, we have prepared a scenario on who we can seek help from," he added.

Mr Luhut said accommodation infrastructure, including disused buildings, can be converted into isolation facilities in the worst-case scenario.

Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said on Tuesday that the government was adding nearly 8,000 new beds within the Greater Jakarta area, and was closely watching Sumatra and Kalimantan islands, wire agency Associated Press reported.

The islands of Java and Bali - which recorded 70 per cent of total infections in the country - are in lockdown until July 20 to curb the rapid spread of the virus, blamed on widespread travel during the Aidilfitri festive period and the highly contagious Delta variant, first identified in India.

Malls, places of worship and parks are shut, while restaurants can only provide takeaway and delivery services. Grocery stores and supermarkets must close by 8pm daily, and limit customers to 50 per cent of capacity, among some of the tighter measures.

The authorities on Tuesday also tightened measures in 20 other provinces.

Workers unload oxygen tanks at an emergency oxygen station set up near the National Monument in Jakarta, on July 5, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

In the capital Jakarta, the epicentre of the outbreak, plastic tents erected at hospitals to serve as makeshift intensive care units saw snaking queues. Healthcare workers also complained of fatigue and burnout.

Reports of shortage of hospital beds and oxygen have also emerged, with local media reporting that more than 30 patients had died in a hospital in Yogyakarta city on Saturday after it briefly ran out of oxygen supply.

According to a Bloomberg report on July 6, Indonesia was preparing to import liquid oxygen from neighbouring countries to meet surging needs.

Mr Fridy Juwono, director for upstream chemicals at the Industry Ministry, was quoted as saying that producers Linde Group, Air Products and Chemicals Inc, Air Liquide and Iwatani Corp were ready to ship liquid oxygen to the country from facilities in Singapore and Malaysia, which would take one week to arrive.

Mr Juwono also said that demand for oxygen supply on the island of Java has spiked to as much as five times the normal amount of about 300 tonnes a day. The country's oxygen plants were already operating at full capacity to produce 1,700 tonnes a day.

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