Indonesia's health system on the brink as Covid-19 surge looms


Indonesian medical staff prepare a room for patients at the 2018 Asian Games athlete's village which has been converted into a hospital for coronavirus patients in Jakarta on March 23, 2020. - AFP

JAKARTA (Reuters): Indonesia has a significant deficit in hospital beds, medical staff and intensive care facilities as health experts warn that it is primed to become a new epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, according to data reviewed by Reuters.

Health experts say Indonesia faces a surge in coronavirus cases after a slow government response masked the scale of the outbreak in the world's fourth most populous country.

Indonesia has recorded 686 cases but the data is seen as understating the scale of infections because of a low rate of testing and a high mortality rate. Indonesia has reported 55 deaths, the highest in South-east Asia.

A study by the London-based Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases released on Monday (March 23) estimates that as few as 2 per cent of Indonesia's coronavirus infections have been reported. That would bring the true number to as many as 34,300, which is more than Iran.

Other modellers are projecting that cases could rise to as many as 5 million in the capital, Jakarta, by the end of April under a worst-case scenario.

"We have lost control, it has already spread everywhere,"Mr Ascobat Gani, a public health economist told Reuters. "Maybe we will follow Wuhan or Italy. I think we are in the range of that".

The government says the impact of the virus will not be that severe. - Reuters

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