Indonesia holds mass vaccination to scale up virus fight

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Thousands of Indonesians lined up at a sports stadium to get a COVID-19 vaccine dose Thursday in a one-day, mass vaccination event that’s part of a push to dramatically scale up the nation’s virus fight as hospitals fill with sick patients.

Meanwhile, President Joko Widodo announced new community restrictions and the mobilization of the National Police and other resources to combat the surging infections.

The efforts follow the warning earlier this week from the Red Cross that Indonesia was “on the edge of a COVID-19 catastrophe” and urgently needed to increase medical care, testing and vaccinations.

The emergency restrictions on public activity were to take effect Saturday through July 20 on Indonesia’s main island of Java and the popular tourist island of Bali. “I call on people to be disciplined in complying with this restrictions for the safety of all,” Widodo said.

He said the government will mobilize civil servants, doctors and health care workers. “The Health Ministry will continuously increase hospital capacity, centralized isolation facilities as well as the availability of medicines, medical equipment and oxygen tanks,” he added.

Thursday’s mass vaccination event was part of efforts to reach a target of 1 million doses per day in July and 2 million in August.

At the stadium in Bekasi, outside Jakarta, local authorities aimed to vaccine 25,000 people. Tanti Rohilawati, chief of Bekasi’s health agency, said more than 1,500 health care workers, including 550 to give the shots, are involved in the event at the city’s main stadium.

More than 80% of beds at the Bekasi city hospital are filled, and Mayor Rahmat Effendi said tents were set up in the hospital’s parking lot to treat COVID-19 patients with moderate and severe symptoms.

Similar conditions were seen elsewhere. A Red Cross COVID-19 hospital in Bogor, outside of Jakarta, was “overflowing” and using emergency tents as well.

The world’s fourth-most populous country has seen a rapid surge in COVID-19 cases see in the last two weeks. Indonesia recorded another daily high in COVID-19 cases on Wednesday with 21,807 new infections and reported 467 deaths. Overall, it has had more than 2,178,000 cases, with 58,491 deaths.

Indonesia aims to inoculate more than 181 million of its 270 million people by March 2022, but authorities have only fully vaccinated 13.4 million people and partially vaccinated another 15.8 million others so far.

On Wednesday, raw materials for 14 million doses of the China-based Sinovac vaccine arrived. The country has received 118.7 million doses produced by Sinovac, AstraZeneca and Sinopharm.