Indonesia reported more than 54,500 coronavirus cases on Wednesday, its third consecutive record daily increase as the country surpassed India’s current daily case count.
A seven-day moving average of daily cases in the two countries has shown them neck and neck, but India’s number of cases has steadily declined while Indonesia’s has skyrocketed, according to data collected by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
In recent weeks, hospitals on the island of Java have been swarming with patients and residents have rushed to purchase medical oxygen to treat family members at home. Hundreds of people have reportedly died from the virus at home due to a lack of oxygen and a strained health system.
“Based on the data of the last three days, I can clearly say that Indonesia has become the new epicenter of the world,” said Dicky Budiman, Indonesian epidemiologist at Griffith University in Australia, who has long urged Indonesian authorities to implement stronger measures to control the spread of the virus.
In the past two weeks, the daily number of infections has nearly doubled and Indonesia reported 991 new deaths on Wednesday.
Experts believe the Delta variant is behind the increase in the number of cases in Indonesia, the fourth most populous country in the world. In contrast, the daily number of cases in India, which peaked at over 414,000 in early May, has fallen to around 40,000.
The outbreak in Indonesia is the latest example of the widening gap between Western countries and other nations during the pandemic. Countries like Britain and the United States have reopened their economies and have so far been able to absorb an increase in the number of cases with limited hospitalizations and deaths thanks to the successful roll-out of vaccines. Others, like India and now Indonesia, have fallen behind in vaccinations and are facing the devastating consequences of the spread of Delta.
Studies suggest that vaccines remain effective against the Delta variant, but only 13 percent of Indonesia’s population of 270 million received a dose of a coronavirus vaccine, while less than 6% were fully vaccinated, the Our world in data project at the University of Oxford.
By comparison, nearly half of the US population has been fully vaccinated, and Britain crossed the two-thirds threshold on Wednesday.
In Indonesia, most of the injections came from the Sinovac Biotech vaccine; at least 20 Indonesian doctors who were fully vaccinated with Sinovac died from the virus.
Neighboring Philippines, which has also struggled to contain the virus, has banned arrivals from Indonesia and other countries, including Japan and Saudi Arabia, began to evacuate their citizens from Indonesia.
Indonesia received three million doses of the Moderna vaccine donated by the United States on Sunday. Indonesian officials said the first priority for these doses would be to give boosters to nearly 1.5 million health workers.