JAKARTA - Indonesia has passed a grim milestone, surpassing India in the number of daily Covid-19 cases as assistance arrived on Wednesday (July 14) at a Jakarta seaport aboard a Singapore naval vessel.
The shipment of liquid oxygen, oxygen cylinders and oxygen concentrators followed two planeloads of medical supplies and equipment from Singapore that landed last Friday in Jakarta.
Health Minister Budi Sadikin issued a warning that cases would continue to mount daily just before figures were released showing that infections hit a record for the third day in a row. There were 54,517 infections on Wednesday, 47,899 on Tuesday and 40,427 on Monday.
India, with a population about five times that of Indonesia's 270 million, saw daily infections drop to below 33,000 on Tuesday as the devastating wave of the disease wanes in the South Asian country.
Indonesia has recorded a total of 2.67 million Covid-19 infections and 69,210 deaths.
Mr Budi said he expected the number of cases to rise because of more reporting from the provinces, as well as more rigorous testing and contact tracing.
The world's fourth-most populous country is ramping up testing to 400,000 a day, he told Parliament late on Tuesday. Currently, 200,000 tests are done daily, which is a sharp jump from the 30,000 a day recorded late last year.
Indonesia, which is the worst-hit country in South-east Asia, has 34 provinces and 500 cities as well as regencies spread across 17,000 islands. Officials say many of the provinces, cities and regencies have not been reporting their Covid-19 cases in a timely and transparent manner.
Like many other countries, Indonesia is also fighting to curb the Delta variant of the coronavirus. The variant, which was first detected in India and is more transmissible, has spread around the world, including where vaccination rates are high.
"It would be better to report the situation as it is. What happened earlier was under-reporting. There weren't as many confirmed cases reported but, all of a sudden, there was a massive influx of patients in hospitals," Mr Budi said at the hearing of Parliament's health committee on Tuesday.
He added that if President Joko Widodo's government could get a clearer picture of the situation, it could respond better by identifying clusters fast and carry out more effective contact tracing.
The minister repeated an appeal for people to refrain from leaving their homes for non-essential reasons, stressing that failing to do so would add more pressure on hospitals that are already overstretched.
Stricter social distancing rules imposed since early this month has slowed mobility by only between 6 per cent and 16 per cent, still short of the 20 per cent minimum required to ease the pressure on hospitals, he said.
"Please reduce your activity. This virus, Delta variant, spreads quickly," said Mr Budi, emphasising that the country's ability to overcome the crisis depended on the public's discipline on reducing their mobility.
He also said that the government would likely continue to increase the number of beds for Covid-19 patients until the end of this month.
He noted that the Delta variant had spread outside Java, with cases confirmed in five locations in Sumatra, two in Kalimantan, two in Sulawesi, and one each in Papua and Nusa Tenggara.
"I have told regions to monitor closely... and make preparations... to avoid case surges. Health facilities there (outlying regions) are far below Jakarta's, or below Java's," Mr Budi said.