Bicycle riding volunteers deliver medicines in Indonesia's Semarang


SEMARANG, Indonesia (Reuters) - Pedalling through the Indonesian city of Semarang, Arrahman Surya Atmaja stops at a pharmacy to pick up some vitamins before hitting the road again to deliver them to a person isolating at home.

The 35-year-old is part of a small group of volunteer cyclists running errands for people in the city of 3 million, which along with the rest of the country, has been hit hard by the pandemic.

"I think about how difficult it would be to be in self-isolation or have COVID-19, so hopefully with this, we can help people who are," said Arrahman, who started the service in April.

Indonesia has become Asia's COVID-19 epicentre with record infections and deaths this month. Total infections have surpassed 3.2 million, including almost 87,000 deaths.

In Semarang alone, officials have reported around 78,000 cases and more than 5,600 deaths.

Arrahman said delivering medicine or vitamins were the most common requests, which he picks up via Whatsapp or Instagram.

Once though, he said, he ended up unknowingly making a delivery to a hospital ICU ward, a situation he tries to avoid.

"I got scared, but my feelings went away when I remembered I only want to help," he said. The cyclists try to ensure deliveries are contactless.

Arrahman and the other volunteers often have to lift their bikes over barricades blocking off "red zones" or areas of high infection.

"Maybe because we are helping the community, it will somehow boost our immunity, maybe it's like that," he joked.

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