Governments across the Asia-Pacific region are rushing to impose tougher lockdown measures to combat the spread of the highly infectious Covid-19 Delta variant. The sudden resurgence of coronavirus outbreaks is straining health systems and stoking public anxiety about vaccination programmes plagued by delays and supply shortages.
Indonesia is among the worst-hit countries in the region. The nation of 270m faces its deadliest outbreak since the pandemic began, with its medical system struggling to cope with a record numberof cases. The daily death toll has doubled over the past week to more than 1,000 and authorities have warned that the number of new infections could surge as high as 70,000 after surpassing 34,000 on Wednesday.
Many hospitals have reached capacity and are already turning patients away. The government has resorted to importing oxygen tanks from neighbouring countries as supplies are exhausted. Joko Widodo, the president, has extended lockdown measures in areas including Java, the main island, and Bali. But Jakarta has resisted imposing greater restrictions for fear of hurting south-east Asia’s biggest economy.
Indonesia has relied on Chinese Sinovac jabs, but the vaccination rate has been slow and beset by supply issues.In Australia, authorities have warned that thousands of people could die unless an outbreak in Sydney linked to the Delta variant was brought under control. A two-week lockdown in the city of 5m has failed to quell a cluster of active cases, prompting a tightening of restrictions on Friday.
“We cannot live with this variant. No place on earth has unless they have their vaccination rates are much, much higher than what we have,” said GladysBerejiklian, premier of New South Wales.
“Otherwise, it subjects the population to thousands and thousands of hospitalisations, thousands of deaths,” she added.