Indonesia’s daily COVID-19 case numbers have surpassed those of India, making Indonesia a new virus epicenter in Southeast Asia as the spread of the highly-contagious delta variant drives up infections in the region’s largest economy.
The country has seen its daily case count cross 40,000 for two straight days — including a record high of 47,899 on Tuesday — up from less than 10,000 a month ago.
Officials are concerned that the more transmissible new variant is now spreading outside of the country’s main island, Java, and could exhaust hospital workers as well as supplies of oxygen and medication.
Indonesia’s current numbers are still far below the peak of 400,000 daily cases logged in May in India, which has a population roughly five times the size of Indonesia’s 270 million people. India saw daily infections drop below 33,000 on Tuesday as its devastating outbreak wanes.
Indonesia reported 907 deaths daily on average over the past seven days compared to just 181 a month ago, while India reported an average of 1,072 daily fatalities.
Developing countries are struggling to contain the virus — especially delta’s rapid spread — even as vaccine rollouts are allowing life to return to normal in countries like the U.S. and U.K.
The outbreak in Indonesia underscores the consequences of an unequal global distribution of vaccines, in which richer countries have secured more of the supply and left poorer places exposed to outbreaks of variants like delta. World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has called the growing divide a “catastrophic moral failure.”
Indonesia has administered enough vaccines to cover just 10% of its population, and India 14% — compared to 46% of the European Union’s population and 52% in the U.S. having received shots, according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker.
Without adequate doses, the developing world is bearing the brunt of rising case counts and death tolls. Global fatalities reached 4 million earlier this month.
Indonesia’s country’s positive COVID-19 test rate has reached about 27%, while India’s rate is 2%. Larger numbers can indicate a government is only testing its sickest patients, and that there are high levels of undetected infection in the community. Experts say both nations are undercounting cases and deaths by a wide margin given their lack of testing infrastructure.
Curbs imposed on Java and tourism spot Bali from July 3 to July 20 haven’t reduced people’s movements as much as the government had expected.
Residents’ mobility has only fallen by 6% to 16% since the restrictions were put in place, whereas authorities had expected a 20% drop, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said in a hearing with lawmakers Tuesday. The government had earlier said that a 50% reduction in mobility was needed to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“Our hospitals can’t endure it anymore if we fail to reduce movement by at least 20%,” Sadikin said.
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