Indonesia urges not to travel for Muslim holiday, as regions seek more vaccines
This content was published on July 16, 2021 – 12:52
By Stanley Widianto and Agustinus Beo Da Costa
JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia’s minister of religions on Friday called on people to pray at home during next week’s Islamic holiday to avoid the risk of the coronavirus spreading, with some areas complaining of a lack of stocks of COVID vaccines -19.
Fueled by the spread of the more virulent Delta variant, Indonesia has repeatedly reported record-breaking infections and deaths from COVID-19 in recent weeks, prompting some health experts to declare the country the new epicenter of the ‘Asia for the virus.
Travel after the Muslim month of May fast was partly blamed for triggering the epidemic, and religious minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas issued a circular on Friday urging people to avoid travel and gatherings for the upcoming festival of Eid-al-Adha.
“When the government makes regulations that protect people, it is mandatory,” he said. The circular also called for the animal sacrifices traditionally performed at that time not to be done with large crowds.
Indonesia has focused its COVID-19 response on its most populous island of Java, where hospitals have been inundated with patients seeking treatment, but some more remote areas with much lower vaccination rates have started to see more infections.
Josef Nae Soi, vice-governor of East Nusa Tenggara, told Reuters that only around 12% of its 5.3 million people had received a first vaccine.
“We admit that on Java … the transmission (of the virus) is really high,” Josef said. “But we ask the central government to pay attention to us proportionately.”
In Kendari, in Southeast Sulawesi province, authorities stopped giving the first injections of the vaccine to use the remaining 14,000 doses for the second injections, said the head of the local health agency Rahminingrum.
The province of North Sumatra had also asked the central government for more supplies, said Aris Yudhariansyah, a local health official.
According to the Ministry of Health, Jakarta has fully vaccinated 24% of its 8.3 million people to be vaccinated, while for example Southeast Sulawesi has vaccinated 6% of its target of 2 million.
Siti Nadia Tarmizi, Ministry of Health spokesperson for immunization, said immunization remained focused on Java and Bali pending increased capacity to produce ready-to-use doses.
Indonesia distributed 73.6 million doses of the vaccine across the archipelago, the majority of Chinese Sinovac Biotech fired. It also has AstraZeneca, Sinopharm and Moderna vaccines, which must be given to medical staff as boosters.
(Edited by Ed Davies)