The Australian government has been urged to rapidly increase its assistance to Indonesia, amid warnings that the sharp rise in Covid-19 cases is fueling a “growing crisis right on our doorstep.”
With aid groups fearing that the Indonesian healthcare system is on the brink of collapse, and with shortages of oxygen and beds in some hospitals, there are growing calls for the Morrison government to help its more populous neighbor.
Labor spokeswoman for foreign affairs, Penny Wong, said the situation was “deeply worrying” and that Australia “must act now with a comprehensive response to Indonesia’s needs, including the provision of emergency oxygen.”
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has announced emergency restrictions in Jakarta, Java and Bali, as data suggests that the Delta variant is now driving the outbreak to worsen in the country.
Indonesia on Tuesday reported a daily record of more than 31,189 new coronavirus cases and 728 deaths, bringing the death toll since the start of the pandemic to 61,868, but actual numbers may be higher due to low testing rates. .
The Indonesian government has pledged to triple the oxygen supply to hospitals, which they are struggling to cope with.
More than 60 people were reported to have died in a hospital where the oxygen supply nearly depleted last weekend, while the LaporCovid-19 citizen data project reported that it was unable to obtain beds for sick patients.
Aid group Save the Children said that unless the international community provides more urgent help, “the Covid crisis in Indonesia will quickly spiral out of control” and “many more children and adults will die.”
Dino Satria, a humanitarian and resilience chief for Save the Children in Indonesia, said there were no signs that infection rates would drop anytime soon without urgently speeding up vaccines.
“The health system is on the brink of collapse: hospitals are already overwhelmed, oxygen supplies are running low, and health services in Java and Bali are woefully ill-equipped to handle this surge in critically ill patients,” Satria said.
“We desperately need more vaccines, that’s the bottom line.”
Ben Bland, director of the Southeast Asia program at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, said the outbreak in Indonesia was “very concerning.”
“Australia should be there for its larger neighbor in times of need and the Australian government is already providing technical assistance to Indonesia as well as vaccines through the multilateral Covax initiative,” Bland said.
“But as this pandemic is likely to continue for some time in all affected countries, Australia should ask the Indonesian government what other help it needs in the coming weeks and months, be it vaccines or any other support.”
But Wong said the Morrison government had not done enough.
“We know that the Morrison government’s $ 143 million contribution to Gavi’s Covax facility to help countries like Indonesia with vaccine supplies pales in comparison to other similar nations,” Wong said.
“The United States has contributed US $ 5.2 billion, Germany US $ 2.6 billion, and the UK and Canada US $ 1.1 billion each, much more per capita than the Morrison government.”
Wong said the prime minister “had not made Indonesia a priority,” noting figures showing Australia’s healthcare to Indonesia fell by 87.5% before the pandemic. Funding for the bilateral health program decreased from $ 62.4 million in 2014-15 to just $ 7.8 million in 2020-21.
In the past week ABC cited Indonesian Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said Australia would donate $ 77 million to help buy vaccines. Guardian Australia has asked the Australian government to confirm the details.
The Greens’ foreign affairs spokeswoman, Janet Rice, said this “was not enough support” for “a population of 270 million facing catastrophic death toll.”
Rice said Australia must join the international community in addressing “a rapidly escalating crisis that is occurring right on our doorstep.”
“The Indonesian health system is at a critical point, there is a shortage of oxygen and only about 5% of the country has been fully vaccinated,” Rice said.
“Australia should also donate more of our AstraZeneca stock, especially as the doses have an expiration date and Indonesia is in great need now.”
Professor Brendan Crabb, infectious disease researcher and executive director of the Burnet Institute, emphasized the need to “stop Covid on its way globally” because more harmful virus variants could emerge from Covid-19 hotspots and present a challenge for existing vaccines.
Crab told The New Daily that “the next level surge in India is underway” around the world: “It is a human tragedy, which is reason enough that we are all busy helping our neighbors. But we also have every self-interest reason to do so. “
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and her department were contacted for comment.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism