Hundreds of children have died from coronavirus in Indonesia as the country struggles to overcome a new wave of infections.
According to the Indonesian Paediatric Society, more than 360,000 children have been infected with the virus there – roughly one in eight recorded cases.
Al Jazeera reports that more than 700 Indonesian children have died from the virus and that half of those deaths were in children under the age of five.
The New York Times reports that there were more than 100 child deaths every week this month in Indonesia.
“Our numbers are the highest in the world,” said Dr Aman Bhakti Pulingan, head of the Indonesian Paediatric Society.
The confronting statistics form part of a bigger problem in Indonesia where official records show 83,000 deaths and more than three million total cases.
It comes as the country confronts a surge in cases driven by the highly infectious Delta variant.
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On Sunday, President Joko Widodo said that a partial lockdown imposed in early July would continue until August 2, even as the highly infectious Delta variant tears across the vast archipelago nation, which has overtaken India and Brazil to become the global pandemic epicentre.
But restrictions on many small businesses, including traditional markets and ubiquitous open-air eateries known as warungs, were loosened even in the worst-hit areas.
“We’re opening for dining in again,” a seafood eatery owner told AFP.
“I hope Jakarta recovers quickly because this busy place is where we make a living.” Shopping centres and mosques in less-affected parts of the Muslim majority nation also got the green light to open their doors to limited crowds and shorter hours.
Offices were still under shutdown orders, although there have been widespread reports of employers flouting earlier lockdown rules.
Tens of millions live hand to mouth in the nation of about 270 million, making the strict lockdowns seen in some countries next to impossible.
But Widodo’s government has been widely criticised over its handling of the pandemic and policies that critics say prioritised South East Asia’s largest economy over public health.
The government announcement on Sunday came just days after Indonesia saw its 24-hour death toll hit a record 1566, and as the World Health Organisation called on the country to impose tighter restrictions.
Mr Widodo has pointed to falling daily infection and hospital occupancy rates as justification for the easing of restrictions.
Official case rates are down, but testing rates have also declined and the number of positive results remains high – suggesting the virus is still spreading quickly in the country.
The Delta variant has been detected in about a dozen regions outside hard-hit Jakarta, densely populated Java and Bali, where hospitals have been jammed with Covid-19 patients.
Authorities on the holiday island warned that oxygen supplies were running low. Impoverished Papua – wracked by decades of fighting between government forces and independence-seeking rebels – also sounded the alarm as its underdeveloped healthcare system reached breaking point.
The restive region, next to independent Papua New Guinea, said it was considering locking down its sea, air and land borders from August.
Indonesia’s vaccination levels remain far below the government’s one-million-a-day target for July and only about six per cent of the population has been fully inoculated.
The country has reported more than 3.1 million cases and 83,000 deaths since the pandemic began, but those official figures are widely believed to be a severe undercount due to low testing and tracing rates.
– with AFP