It's make-or-break time for Indonesia in its battle with the latest wave of Covid-19 infections with the number of deaths daily exceeding 1,000 for the first time ever on Wednesday (July 7).
The country, the worst-hit by the pandemic in South-east Asia, reported 38,124 cases and 871 fatalities on Friday, bringing the number of total cases to more than 2.45 million and deaths to over 64,000.
But the situation is set to become a lot worse, with the government projecting daily infections to go beyond 40,000 and perhaps as high as 70,000 in the worst-case scenario.
Hospitals, as well as healthcare workers, are already struggling to cope, erecting tents outdoors to attend to scores of Covid-19 patients.
Social media is filled with frantic pleas for oxygen tanks and sombre condolence messages, including of prominent figures such as leading scientist Novilia Sjafri Bachtiar, who led clinical trials of the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine in Indonesia.
Critics have blamed President Joko Widodo and his government for their reluctance to impose a strict, large-scale lockdown, opting instead for small-scale zonal restrictions to safeguard the economy.
Despite mounting cases since the Hari Raya holidays in May - driven mostly by widespread travel throughout the sprawling archipelago and the highly contagious Delta variant - the government implemented emergency measures only on July 3, and these were limited to Java and Bali islands until July 20.
Under the guidelines implemented on July 3, up to 50 per cent of workers in "essential" sectors such as banks, hotels and the stock market were allowed to work on staggered shifts.
But those in "critical sectors", a newly created category, such as energy, logistics, food and beverage, were exempted.
Given the late response, epidemiologists told The Straits Times that more draconian measures were needed to break the chain of transmission of the virus.
"We really have to have 100 per cent of employees working from home, exempting perhaps the most essential such as those in security and food delivery," said Dr Dicky Budiman, an epidemiologist at Australia's Griffith University.
"We shouldn't play down the situation as the threat is very serious," he added.
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This past week, the government has also imposed stricter measures in 20 other provinces, although not as stringent as in Java and Bali.
It has also promised to scale up testing and boost vaccination, targeting a million doses a day in July and two million in August. It is currently administering around a million doses a day.
Experts doubt the target is realistic given serious challenges, including supply chain delays, the need for refrigeration facilities, bureaucracy, corruption and geography.
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