MUHAMMAD Ihsan gratefully lugs an oxygen cylinder into a small office in Jakarta’s outskirts, lining the breathing equipment up with scores of others against a wall.
He has taken advantage of a new rental service, established by volunteers in response to the coronavirus outbreak ravaging Jakarta, borrowing the cylinder to give his infected mother some much-needed oxygen.
“Thank God, this really helped my mother,” he said, adding that her Covid-19 diagnosis was complicated by pre-existing asthma.
“I tried looking everywhere, from Bekasi to Bogor, but couldn’t find an oxygen cylinder. A friend recommended borrowing from here.”
A group of volunteers called the Action of Our Indonesia Movement (Gita) set up the oxygen cylinder rental system early this month, aiming to help Covid-19 sufferers who could not afford access to hospitals.
The cylinders – around 400 have been donated to the group – are lent out to users for free for a week at a time, but they must be refilled with oxygen before they are returned.
Indonesia is one of the countries most affected by the pandemic in South-East Asia, with around 3.08 million cases and 80,000 deaths.
Jakarta, in particular, has been struggling to combat the rapid spread of the Delta variant.
“When we saw many people in self-isolation and a lack of oxygen cylinders, we started lending oxygen cylinders to people in need, free of charge,” said volunteer Suranto Kurniawan, 43.
The cost of an oxygen cylinder has skyrocketed in Jakarta to a minimum of around 1,800,000 rupiah (RM525), a price that is out of reach for many in the capital.
In a sign of the desperation felt by many, there is a steady stream of borrowers to the group’s office in Depok despite the fact that Gita does not verify the source of the oxygen or rigorously check the returned cylinders beyond giving them a basic disinfection.
The system works mostly on word of mouth, with people hearing about it on social media. People submit an application online and then pick the cylinder for a one-week period.Gita tries to ensure people who are not close contacts of infected cases pick up the cylinders, but acknowledges that the system is largely trust-based.
“We are humans too who are also worried that we will be exposed to Covid-19, but what can we do? We just want to help,” Suranto said. — Reuters