Experts warn unreported virus deaths in Indonesia as health services “cannot contain” toll

3 mins read

Another family has shed a member to COVID-19 in a residential street in Bogor, Indonesia.

A young woman wails as she sits beside her father’s body, crying “Wake up, please don’t sleep,” as a team helps to cover the body of the deceased.

The cries are not new to the 32-year-old Muhammad Jauhar, who is among the team.

“We do various jobs in this task force, I drive the ambulance for the deceased and I prepare many things – including the coffin and the shroud,” Jauhar shared to Al Jazeera. “I also make preparations for cleaning, wrapping and delivering the body to the cemetery.”

Jauhur, along with the other volunteers, are now considered important members of the country’s funeral industry.

“The impact of COVID is huge, the number of deaths in Bogor is really high. This is what we can do to help the families,” he exclaimed. “We don’t receive any payment. We do the job from our heart.”

Indonesia has already gone beyond India in terms of daily virus cases for this month, as it also overtook Brazil in reporting the highest number of COVID-19 deaths across the world.

COVID-19 death toll in the Asian country is now more than 73, 000.

It logged its highest deaths at 1, 338 on Monday but experts cautioned that some deaths related to COVID were unreported due to low testing turn-outs.

Ahmad Arid, co-founder of Lapor COVID-19 group which collected pandemic data, cited their research showing that the country’s death toll is three to five times the figures released by the government.

“Most of those who died in isolation had trouble accessing the hospitals. Their condition deteriorated, they tried to go to hospital but they are full, so they died at home,” Ahmad said. “We see that the deaths of people in self-isolation is an indicator of the collapse of our health services.”

Worse situations are also feared as remote provinces also showed indications to have been reached by the health crisis.

“Deaths in self-isolation have started to happen outside Java. In the last week, we got data of people dying in Riau, Lampung, East Nusa Tenggara, Kalimantan, and more,” he said. “This is an indication that cases cannot be contained by health services any more.”

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