Jakarta, Indonesia – From morning until midnight, Suherman and his fellow carpenters work in the heat – sawing, sanding and painting.
As COVID-19 emergency measures begin on Saturday in Indonesia’s most populous island of Java and the tourist island of Bali, many businesses are calmer than usual as millions have been invited. to work from home – but not in that open-air workshop in the archipelago’s capital, Jakarta.
With the rising death toll from COVID-19, there is an urgent need for coffins.
“We are in a hurry,” Suherman said. “People are waiting for coffins, so we have to work fast. The families of the deceased are waiting, ”he added.
“Before COVID, we didn’t have to work that hard. We didn’t even have goals for how many we needed to do each day. But now we have to meet the demand.
In Jakarta, on the northwest coast of Java, the funeral directors are overwhelmed. The newly constructed coffins are stacked on trucks and sent to city hospitals.
Due to the excessive workload, Suherman is making $ 30 more each month compared to before the pandemic.
“I don’t mind if my income is reduced, I just want COVID to go away,” he said. “I am so sorry for all these families. “
Indonesia recorded a record daily increase of nearly 28,000 cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, including nearly 10,000 in Jakarta. The total confirmed death toll in the country, the worst-affected country in Southeast Asia, has exceeded 60,000.
Experts warn those numbers are likely underestimated due to the country’s low testing rates.
The health ministry said the increase in transmission was triggered by increased mobility during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, as well as by the presence of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus, which was first detected in India.
Faced with a spiraling health crisis, Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Thursday announced a series of coronavirus containment measures, which will be in place until at least July 20.
Under the restrictions, public sites such as shopping malls and restaurants will remain closed, all non-essential workers must work from home, and domestic travelers must show proof of vaccination and PCR results.
“This situation has forced us to take stronger action so that together we can block the spread of COVID-19,” Widodo said.
“I ask people to be calm and alert. Obey regulations, be disciplined in following health protocols, and support the work of government. “
“I feel all alone”
The ferocity of this current wave of cases has forever changed thousands of families – and raised questions about how many lives could have been saved had emergency measures and stricter protocols been put in place sooner. .
Munis Runawati, 36, from Kudus, central Java, lost both parents within a week. She said she was shocked at how quickly their condition deteriorated.
“At first it was my mother. She had chills and then she lost her voice. We didn’t think it was COVID, but then she became unresponsive, ”she said.
“I feel all alone now. Now that they are gone, we are lost. We don’t know what to do next.
Outside an oxygen store in South Jakarta, the crisis in the city’s hospitals is clear.
Among those waiting are people whose relatives, despite being ill and in need of treatment, have been turned away from hospitals due to capacity issues.
“I have to fill this tank with oxygen because my father is having difficulty breathing,” said Sari Anugrah, as he stood in line outside.
“He was not admitted. They kept rejecting us, even the ER… it’s up to the hospital to take her or not. So we have to take care of him at home.
For pulmonologist Erlina Burhan, thinking of families who are desperately trying to take care of their loved ones makes her “want to cry”.
“So many people want to be admitted and put in isolation but we don’t have enough space,” said the doctor, who works at Persahabatan Hospital, one of the government’s designated COVID-19 treatment hospitals. .
“Some staff are COVID-19 positive and need to rest and self-quarantine at home. We have fewer staff now, but more patients. It’s hectic. It’s depressing.”
While welcoming the new emergency measures, Erlina said the government must go further.
“It’s a little late. But better late than never… and I would like to say that we need more than what is offered,” she said.
The bed occupancy rate in his hospital is over 90% and his intensive care unit is at full capacity.
“People I know are crying for help… asking for a bed for their parent… but I can’t help them. It’s such an unpleasant feeling, ”she said.
“Even within our group of doctors, we say it’s best not to get sick because we don’t even have a place in our own hospital.”