Why does Indonesia have a high COVID-19 mortality rate? | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 28.03.2020
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Why does Indonesia have a high COVID-19 mortality rate?

Indonesia has the second-highest COVID-19 mortality rate in the world. The government has been reluctant to impose a nationwide lockdown despite a steady spike in coronavirus cases and virus-related deaths.

On Friday , Indonesia recorded 153 coronavirus cases – the biggest single-day increase so far in the Southeast Asian country, according to the Health Ministry.

On Friday, the number of coronavirus infections in Indonesia rose to over 1,000, and 87 deaths were reported.

Although the number of fatalities is not particularly high, the ratio of deaths when compared to infections is alarmingly steep – around 8%. The highest COVID-19 mortality rate has been recorded in Italy with 9%, while Iran's mortality rate is at 7.8%, followed by Spain at 6%.

Last week, the Health Ministry admitted that the death ratio in the country is much higher than the global average mortality rate – 4%. Yurianto said the situation could still be brought under control with the implementation of safety measures.

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"The figure is indeed high, yet it is a fluctuating figure. At any time the number of new cases might increase rapidly, but hopefully no one will die as a result of the disease," the Health Ministry spokesperson told a press conference on Thursday.

Most COVID-19 victims are people aged between 45 and 65 years, with a history of diseases like hypertension, diabetes and heart problems, Yurianto added.

Unlike other countries with a high number of COVID-19 cases and deaths, Indonesia has so far not imposed a countrywide lockdown to contain the virus's spread.

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Can Indonesia tackle COVID-19?

Adib Kumaidi, an official at the Indonesian Medical Association (IDI), told DW that a number of factors are contributing to a high mortality rate in Indonesia, mainly the lack of data and limited health facilities to conduct coronavirus tests. Kumaidi said the number of cases will increase when the authorities test more people across the country.

The IDI official urged the government to share the medical history of patients with the health staff so that they could receive better treatment. He also said that patients who are brought to hospitals are already in critical condition.

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"If the patients arrive at hospital in a poor state, already suffering pneumonia or sepsis, it would be harder for the doctors to help them," he explained, adding that proper medical facilities are needed to lower the mortality rate in Indonesia.

"Indonesian hospitals need ICUs, isolation rooms, as well as ventilators. These facilities are detrimental," Kumaidi added.

Joko Widodo gives a speech (Presidential Secretariat Press Bureau)

President Joko Widodo has announced a monthly bonus for health care workers in Indonesia

Inadequate measures

On Monday, the Indonesian government opened an emergency hospital in Jakarta to treat COVID-19 patients. The facility was originally built for athletes that participated in the 2018 Asian Games. The 4,000-capacity hospital was soon flooded by people who wanted to get themselves tested for coronavirus.

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) also announced a monthly bonus of up to $900 (€816) for health workers that are treating coronavirus patients, while specialist doctors will receive a bigger amount. The government has also allocated funds to help small businesses in the country.

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But the medical staff is facing acute shortages of protective equipment. So far six doctors have died of COVID-19 in Indonesia.

"They [health workers] dedicated their lives and did their best to deal with the coronavirus," the president said. "On behalf of the government, I thank them for their selfless dedication," he told reporters.

Additional reporting by Rizki Akbar Putra, in Jakarta