The number of cases rose sharply in Java and Sumatra three weeks after the holidays following the month of Islamic fasting, when millions dared to cross the archipelago, ignoring a temporary travel ban.
In Kudus, central Java, cases have since jumped by 7,594%, according to Wiku Adisasmito of Indonesia’s Covid-19 working group. Healthcare reinforcements have been brought in, but hospital capacity has reached 90%, local media reported.
Defriman Jaffrey, an epidemiologist at Andalas University in Padang, said deaths in West Sumatra in May were the highest.
In Riau, Sumatra, daily cases more than doubled from early April to more than 800 by mid-May, while positivity was 35.8% last week, said Wilden Asfan Hasibuan, an epidemiologist and adviser to the provincial task force.
Wilden attributes the jump in increased mobility and the possible spread of coronavirus variants, which have caused major spikes in many countries.
The impact of the variants is difficult to determine in Indonesia, which has limited genomic sequencing capacity.
The country also has shortcomings in testing and monitoring, and its immunization efforts are progressing slowly, with one in 18 people targeted for inoculation so far being fully vaccinated.
Recent studies also show that the incidence may be far higher than the nearly 1.9 million known infections, among the largest in Asia.
“If we do not change our strategy, we will face an explosion of cases in the community, mortality will increase,” he said.
“This means that sooner or later it will reach the more vulnerable … we will face an explosion of cases that we cannot contain or respond to in our healthcare facilities.”