Indonesians desperately looking for oxygen

When the Covid-19 infected aunt was breathing fast at home without treatment, Ridho Milhasan decided to set out in search of oxygen.

Carrying an empty bottle, the 17-year-old stopped at a filling station south of Jakarta. After three hours in line beside like-minded people, Milhasan finally got the oxygen he needed.

“My aunt really needs it. The pandemic is getting worse,” he said as he tied the precious vase to the back of the car.

Covid-19 swept across Indonesia. July 7 became the country’s deadliest day since the pandemic broke out. Officials recorded 1,040 deaths. Hospitals are operating at capacity, and oxygen supplies are gradually depleted, causing many families to take care of their loved ones at home.

Milhasan had no other choice. His uncle once tried to take his aunt to the hospital immediately after receiving the positive result, but was refused and asked to find oxygen himself to treat at home.

“Covid-19 patients are not being treated. Now they have to find oxygen on their own,” he said.

In the past two weeks, the 7-day average of new cases has doubled, from 4.72 per 100,000 population (June 22) to 9.85 per 100,000 population (July 6). Despite the government’s social distancing orders and pledges to add hospital beds, the trend continues.

“The next two weeks are critical,” said Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment.

He said he would quickly provide more beds, medical equipment and oxygen. Ngabila Salama, head of the immunization department at the Jakarta Health Office, said the number of deaths buried daily has increased tenfold since May. Of the 369 Covid-19 deaths in Jakarta on March 3 /7, 45 people died at home.

People line up to refill medical oxygen in Jakarta, July 7. Image: AP

The LaporCOVID-19 task group said: “We are concerned this is just the tip of the iceberg. Many cases go unreported. The issue needs to be addressed immediately to prevent patients from dying outside of medical facilities. economic”.

The world’s fourth most populous country reports nearly 2.4 million infections and nearly 63,000 deaths. Many experts believe that the number does not reflect the reality of the pandemic because too few people have been tested and the tracing work is poor.

The health system struggles to cope with the growing number of patients. Those who are lucky to have an empty bed are not sure enough oxygen. Over the weekend, at least 33 critically ill patients died from lack of oxygen.

The Indonesian Hospital Association says the problem is increasingly common. The oxygen levels of many facilities ran out at night, before being refueled the next morning. The association’s general secretary, Lia Partakusuma, said: “The government needs to commit to timely delivery of oxygen to hospitals.”

Across the densely populated island of Java, many hospitals started setting up temporary treatment tents and ICUs in June. Patients waited several days to be admitted. Oxygen cylinders are sold on the sidewalk, only for those who are quick and lucky. Others struggled to find their own supplies.

According to Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin, the ministry has set up a unit to deal with the oxygen crisis when the number of infections in Java and Bali spiked.

“We identified the needs in each hospital and set up task forces in each province,” he said.

Sadikin asked the Ministry of Industry to convert 90% of oxygen production to medical purposes. The demand of Covid-19 patients is about 1,900 tons of oxygen a day, while the country’s total production is more than 2,200 tons a day, according to government data.

Thuc Linh (According to the AP)


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