INDONESIA has ordered oxygen makers to prioritise medical needs amid growing demand from COVID-19 patients.
Government made this known yesterday, as a result of the increase in death tolls which more than 60 deaths recorded in a hospital where supply of the life-saving gas was almost exhausted.
Indonesia being the world’s fourth most populous nation is battling one of Asia’s worst coronavirus outbreaks, with Saturday’s 27,913 infections becoming the newest of many peaks during the last two weeks.
In a statement, the Sardjito hospital on the island of Java revealed that 63 patients died after it nearly ran out of oxygen over the period from Saturday until early Sunday, when fresh supplies arrived.
A hospital spokesman could not confirm if all the dead had suffered from COVID-19.
In response, the Health Ministry Official, Siti Nadia Tarmizi, confirmed that government has asked the gas industry to increase production of medical oxygen.
She added, “We also hope people don’t stock up on oxygen,” referring to stockpiles that could have the effect of denying the gas to many.
However, the hospital said that for days before the incident, it had sought more supplies of oxygen, but virus patients streaming in since Friday had pushed it beyond its capacity, consuming supply sooner than expected.
The crisis eased when it began to receive more supplies just before dawn on Sunday.
Separately, the ministry overseeing Indonesia’s COVID-19 response ordered the gas industry to prioritise production to fill estimated demand of 800 tons of oxygen each day for medical needs.
The ministry also noted that the industry has idle capacity of 225,000 tons a year which could be used thereafter.
Meanwhile, hospitals across the main island of Java are being pushed to the brink by the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant, which was first identified in India, where it caused a dramatic spike in cases and strained medical resources.
In the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, the government said the daily figure of funerals following COVID protocols had risen 10-fold since early May, with 392 burials on Saturday.
It went further to disclosed that from Tuesday, Indonesia would be clamping down on arrivals of foreign visitors, allowing in only those who are fully vaccinated and have a negative PCR test, although diplomatic travel is excluded, adding that visitors would continue to have to spend eight days in quarantine upon arrival.