As COVID Cases Surge in Indonesia, Children Under Age of 5 Are Dying

Dr Aman Bhakti Pulungan stated that children now make up 12.5 percent of the country’s confirmed cases.

3 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>A health worker administers a dose of COVID-19 vaccine to a woman during a mass vaccination campaign in Jakarta, Indonesia. Image used for representational purposes.&nbsp;</p></div>

As Indonesia grapples with its biggest surge in COVID-19 infections, the infection rate for children is among the highest in the world, accounting for one in eight or 362,000 confirmed cases, according to the Indonesian Paediatric Society.

Moreover, over 700 Indonesian children have died from the virus in the past few weeks, with half of them being under the age of five, Al Jazeera reported.

As Indonesian leaders face criticism for having been unprepared, there have been over 100 deaths per week in July.

The head of the Indonesian Pediatric Society, Dr Aman Bhakti Pulungan was quoted as saying, “Our numbers (death rate) are the highest in the world. Why are we not giving the best for our children?” New York Times reported.

Exceeding Brazil and India’s daily COVID cases and death counts, Indonesia has become the new global COVID epicentre.

Though the country has recorded over three million total cases and 83,000 deaths, health experts have suggested that the actual numbers may be much higher.

Restrictions Relaxed Despite Warnings

Despite seeing over 38,000 cases on Sunday, 25 July, President Joko Widodo relaxed COVID restrictions for another week until 2 August. This also comes in the face of warnings that eased restrictions could bring about another wave of COVID infections.

As per the relaxed curbs traditional markets selling staple foods will be back to their normal routine, shops selling non-food items and other small merchants have been allowed to operate at half capacity with shorter hours. Meanwhile, with strict protocols, food stalls and restaurants have been allowed to resume dine-ins in outdoor areas.

The Delta variant has swept through not just Indonesia, but throughout Southeast Asia, especially where vaccination rates are low, causing outbreaks in Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar and Vietnam as well.

Vietnam had remained largely unaffected by the pandemic, however, in July, the number of daily cases soared to cross the 1,000 daily cases mark. On 25 July, the country reported over 6,000 new cases. On the same day, Thailand reported a record high with over 15,000 cases.

Children Make Up 12.5 Percent of Confirmed Cases

Executive director of the pediatric association, Pulungan stated that children now make up 12.5 percent of the country’s confirmed cases.

He added that more than 150 children died from COVID during the week of 12 July alone.

Critics believe that in Indonesia’s fight against the virus, health experts have been given a secondary role.

A research fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, Alexander Raymond Arifianto was quoted as saying, “The government has never taken this pandemic seriously from the beginning. The voice of the actual experts in how to best handle the pandemic is simply not being heard”, New York Times reported.

Pulungan added that more than 800 children have died since the pandemic began, but the majority of those deaths have occurred only in the past month.

Asia health adviser to the nonprofit group Save the Children, Dr Yasir Arafat said, “Until now, children have been the hidden victims of this pandemic. Not anymore.”

He added, “Not only are countries like Indonesia seeing record numbers of children dying from the virus but we’re also seeing an alarming rise in children missing out on routine vaccinations and nutrition services that are critical for their survival, which should ring major alarm bells”, New York Times reported.

Indonesia has so far only vaccinated 16 percent of its population with the first dose, and only 6 percent with both the doses, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford.

Moreover, similar to other countries, Indonesia does not vaccinate children under 12 and only recently began vaccinating those between 12 and 18.

(With inputs from The New York Times)

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