JAKARTA - Indonesia's COVID-19 surge is on the edge of a "catastrophe" as the more infectious Delta variant dominates transmission and chokes hospitals in Southeast Asia's worst epidemic, the Red Cross said Tuesday.
Indonesia has reported record daily COVID-19 infections of more than 20,000 in recent days, in a new wave of infections fueled by the emergence of highly transmissible virus variants and increased mobility after the Muslim fasting month.
"Every day we are seeing this Delta variant driving Indonesia closer to the edge of a COVID-19 catastrophe," said Jan Gelfand, head of the Indonesian delegation of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), urging better vaccine access globally.
Hospitals in several designated "red zone" areas have reported overcapacity, including the capital Jakarta, with its isolation beds 93 percent occupied as of Sunday.
"Hospitals are full because of the case surge caused by mobility and loosening health protocol adherence, worsened also by the Delta variant," said senior health ministry official Siti Nadia Tarmizi, when asked about the IFRC's assessment.
The Delta variant was first identified in India and has been blamed for big spikes in infections in many countries.
Indonesia is banking on mass vaccinations as a means of tackling the virus, but only 13.3 million of the 181.5 million targeted for inoculation have received the required 2 doses since January.
Indonesia's health minister is leading a push for stricter controls as infections surge to unprecedented levels, sources familiar with government discussions have told Reuters.
Citing unnamed sources, The Straits Times newspaper on Tuesday reported the government will tighten restrictions starting on Wednesday, prohibiting restaurant dining and requiring negative polymerase chain reaction tests for domestic air travel.
Asked for confirmation of that, Nadia of the health ministry said: "Wait for the official announcement."