A jump in coronavirus cases on Indonesia’s two most populous islands has health experts worried that the worst could be yet to come.
Case numbers have risen sharply in Java and Sumatra three weeks after holidays that followed the Islamic fasting month, when millions ventured across the archipelago, ignoring temporary travel bans, reports Reuters.
The surge has come at a time of few curbs on movement, and when dangerous variants are driving record fatalities in the country’s neighbours and elsewhere in Southeast Asia.
In Kudus, central Java, cases have skyrocketed by nearly 8,000% according to Wiku Adisasmito of Indonesia’s Covid-19 taskforce.
Defriman Djafri, an epidemiologist from Andalas University in Pandang, said fatalities in West Sumatra in May were the most on record.
In Riau on Sumatra, cases more than doubled from early April to over 800 per day by mid-May, said Wildan Asfan Hasibuan, provincial taskforce adviser.
Wildan attributed the spike to increased mobility and the spread of coronavirus variants, which are driving spikes in many countries.
However, the precise impact of variants is hard to determine in Indonesia, which has limited genomic sequencing capacity.
The country also has testing and tracing problems, and its immunisation drive has progressed slowly, with just one in 18 people targeted for inoculations fully vaccinated so far.
Informal estimates indicate cases could be far higher than the nearly two million known infections, which is among Asia’s highest caseloads.
Dicky Budiman, an epidemiologist from Australia’s Griffith University, said Indonesia should take Covid-19 variants more seriously, particularly the Delta variant, which is in its early stage of spreading.
“If we don’t change our strategy, we will face a surge of cases in the community, and mortality will increase,” he said.
“Sooner rather than later it will reach the more vulnerable and we will face an explosion of cases which we cannot contain or respond to in our health facilities.”