Indonesia officially passed one million coronavirus cases on Tuesday, with many hospitals near capacity even as vaccinations are underway. As in many countries, however, the true number of infections is likely to be much higher.
Indonesia, which has the world’s fourth-largest population at more than 270 million, never succeeded in containing its first wave of infections, and the daily numbers of new cases and deaths have surged to their highest levels in the past 10 days.
On Tuesday, officials reported 13,094 new cases and 336 deaths for a total of 1,012,350 cases, the highest in Southeast Asia. Indonesia is the 19th country to surpass one million cases, and among Asian nations it trails only India in the number of cases.
Dicky Budiman, an epidemiologist who studies pandemics and global health security at Griffith University in Australia, has been saying for months that Indonesia is undercounting its case numbers by a third or more.
He estimates that the country has at least 60,000 new infections each day, more than four times what the government is reporting.
“The response they give to the pandemic is not equal to the problem,” said Dr. Dicky, a former Indonesian health official.
Though Indonesia began its vaccination program almost two weeks ago, it is likely to be some time before there is a significant effect on new infections. A government spokesman said that as of Tuesday, 162,000 people had received the first of two doses of the vaccine made by Sinovac, a private Chinese company. With a population spread across thousands of islands, experts say vaccinating enough Indonesians to reach herd immunity could take a year or more.
Here’s what else is happening around the world:
Violent protests erupted for the third night in cities across the Netherlands, with stores looted and rocks and fireworks thrown at police officers in response to a national 9 p.m. curfew that went into effect on Saturday. In total, the police arrested more than 150 people nationwide, the police chief told the Dutch broadcaster NOS.
Politicians echoed a similar sentiment. “What’s happening in the Dutch streets is unprecedented,” Wopke Hoekstra, the finance minister, told Dutch television on Tuesday. Ferd Grapperhaus, the justice minister, called the violence “outrageous” and indicated that the protests were no reason to rethink the strict lockdown measures. “We need the curfew,” Mr. Grapperhaus said.
France announced on Tuesday that it would not delay the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to quickly maximize the number of people receiving a first shot, as some countries have done. The French health minister, Olivier Véran, said at a news conference that the debate on delaying the second dose was “legitimate” but that it was still unclear how efficient the vaccine would be if administered six weeks after the first shot, instead of the recommended three to four weeks. “I am choosing the security of confirmed data,” Mr. Véran said.
A World Health Organization panel of experts recommended on Tuesday that the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine be given in two doses spaced 28 days apart, which could be extended under exceptional circumstances to 42 days. The guidance was issued by the organization’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization several weeks after it issued similar guidance on the rival Pfizer shot, according to Reuters.
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