New infections and death rate have shot up amid fears that the more infectious Delta variant is spreading.

Tents have been set up outside hospitals in Indonesia to deal with an increase in flow of Covid-19 patients.
Tents have been set up outside hospitals in Indonesia to deal with an increase in flow of Covid-19 patients. (AP)

A surge in Covid-19 cases likely caused by the Delta variant of the Covid-19 disease in the last few days has overwhelmed hospitals in Indonesia with officials fearing that the Muslim country could be heading for a catastrophe. 

Between June 21 and 25, Indonesian authorities recorded 82,958 new Covid-19 cases and more than 1,700 deaths, The Jakarta Post said

Indonesia recorded the highest number of daily cases of 20,574 on Thursday. There was no let up in the flow of patients, as hospitals struggled to deal with 18,872 new cases a day later. 

On social media, people shared pictures and videos showing patients being treated outside the hospitals in tents and ICU wards short on beds. 

Overall cases in the world’s fourth most populous nation have crossed 2 million in the past week. 

Despite a continuous increase in the number of people getting vaccinated, the Delta variant, first identified in India, has become a major concern for many countries including the member states of European Union. 

The virus surge has piled pressure on a fragile healthcare system in Indonesia, with hospitals in some cities nearing full capacity, while hundreds of healthcare workers have tested positive for the respiratory disease and at least 10 who were fully vaccinated have died.

The Jakarta Post said that at least 31 doctors have lost their lives in the past two months to Covid-19 while 24 of them died just this month, raising concern about the efficacy of China’s Sinovac vaccine that the country has largely relied on. 

"How long this pandemic is going to be around comes down to all of us," Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin told a streamed briefing on Friday.

In the capital Jakarta, the isolation bed occupancy rate hit 90 percent on Wednesday, while the ICU rate was at 86 percent, according to Governor Anies Baswedan.

Three hospitals in Jakarta are being converted to exclusively handle COVID-19 patients, while two isolation centres were being set up to house an additional 7,000 beds, Sadikin said.

“In West Java, bed occupancy rates have exceeded 90 percent. Some hospitals’ rates are even more than 100 percent,” Eka Mulyana, a spokesperson for a medical association, told reporters. “At this rate, our health system is close to collapse.”

As more cases of the highly transmissible Delta variant are detected across the archipelago, and with low testing and minimal contact tracing, public health experts have warned that Indonesia could be at risk of suffering the sort of explosion in cases that India recently saw.

Earlier in the week, the government introduced tighter restrictions in designated red zone areas, cutting office capacity and opening hours of restaurants or malls.

But so far President Joko Widodo has resisted calls from health experts for full lockdowns. He said on Wednesday that current restrictions, which target only the outbreak hotspots, were the best option because they could be implemented without "killing" the economy.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies