Australia Australians come together to help Indonesia amid its spiralling COVID-19 crisis driven by the Delta variant
Indonesia is the new epicentre of the COVID pandemic as the Delta variant surges and vaccination rates lag
Indonesia is the new epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic, overtaking India despite only having a fraction of the population.Cases in the fourth-most populous nation in the world are soaring — killing doctors and children — and it has become the new coronavirus epicentre, surpassing India, despite only having a fraction of its population.
Santi Nigro has been running to raise money for oxygen supplies in Indonesia.
Every now and then she has to stop running and catch her breath, and she spares a thought for those who are going through much worse in her country of birth.
Thousands of people infected with coronavirus are in desperate need of oxygen in Indonesia, as the country grapples with a deadly surge of the Delta variant.
"There's always daily news in social media about friends from high school, from uni, from primary school ... my family telling me that someone they know passed away," Ms Nigro told the ABC.
"There are just so many deaths happening from COVID.
As the COVID-19 Delta variant spreads in Australia, global experts look at its movement in a largely unvaccinated population
Australia is being used as a "test case" by researchers across the world watching the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant, with the country's low vaccination rates and comparatively low case numbers allowing "clean data" for analysis.With the Delta strain now well and truly dominant, international experts are monitoring the Australian experience to assess its spread and movement, particularly around the risk of outdoor transmission of the virus.
I'm trying to contribute something.
"I wish I could bring more awareness, for Australians to see what is happening in Indonesia and that we can actually support [them] more."
Indonesia now has some of the highest daily COVID case and death numbers in the world.
Many hospitals are struggling to cope with patient numbers, while people are rushing to purchase or borrow oxygen tanks for their loved ones.
"It's like a time bomb. Like it could happen to anyone," Ms Nigro, who has been living in Melbourne for more than 20 years, said.
Ms Nigro has so far raised more than $13,000 from almost 200 donations to support 'Oksigen Untuk Warga', or Oxygen for Citizens – an Indonesian crowdsourcing movement aimed at buying and delivering medical oxygen to the needy around the country.
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In COVID-19 hot spots, such as Arkansas and Missouri, mask mandates are being discussed but have not yet been imposed. According to KTVI in Missouri, St. Louis County executives recently said a new mask order was possible."The vaccine is available, but unfortunately the vaccination rate in our community has not been high enough to prevent spread of the Delta variant," Dr. Clay Dunagan, acting head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, said according to KTVI. "We now need to return to masking to combat this new wave of infections.
Last week, despite being in lockdown she raised funds by doing a virtual half-marathon as part of the Run Melbourne event.
Calls for more action from Australia
Ms Nigro said she and many other Indonesian Australians have been left feeling "helpless and heartbroken" while travel restrictions are in place.
There are an estimated 90,000 Indonesians living in Australia, according to 2019 federal government data.
Many are struggling to watch the disaster unfold from afar.
"If something happens to my immediate family and I can't go home to give my respects … that would be devastating," Ms Nigro said.
The Australian government has pledged to send emergency aid to Indonesia, including dipping into its vaccine stockpile.
But Jemma Purdey, Adjunct Fellow at Monash University and Deakin University, said while the Australian government's commitment to help is "great", it's also "never really enough".
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The agency said vaccinated people in some parts of the country should still wear masks indoors, as cases of the Delta variant continue to rise.The agency is also recommending that all K-12 students should wear masks in school, no matter what their vaccination status is.
"The scale of the problem in Indonesia is extraordinary," she said.
"We are hearing every day more and more stories of how difficult it is in Indonesia — stories of our friends being ill, stories of our friends dying."
Dr Purdey is also part of the academic group based in Australia that launched an online petition addressed to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
"We are getting kind of a little bit restless, sitting around waiting for the [Australian] government to act," she said.
“So there was just this push to do something."
Dr Purdey said sometimes the fact that Indonesia is "so close to us" is "overlooked".
"I think that at this time, when Indonesia is in such need, we as Australians really need to reach out … and think about how perhaps we might help."
Why should we care about Indonesia?
Dr Purdey said helping Indonesia is in the interest of Australia's national security.
"We need to ensure that Indonesia recovers from this crisis and emerges as a healthy country on the other side," she said.
"And if you want to think about it like that, it will be to our own benefit."
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"It is really the most significant numbers that we have ever seen thus far in the pandemic," Dr. Vincent Hsu told Newsweek about Florida's COVID-19 surge."Most of us, and this is across the nation and many of the experts, did not expect to see a surge as significant," Dr. Vincent Hsu, executive director of infection prevention at AdventHealth and hospital epidemiologist, told Newsweek on Thursday.
The Australian academic group is also fundraising to support healthcare workers in Indonesia, particularly in East Java.
According to the independent data group, Lapor COVID-19, more than 1,000 health workers have already died during the pandemic in Indonesia, and the majority were doctors.
"We are trying to provide some assistance to them and to their families, and also to those who are ill, who are unable to work," Dr Purdey said.
She's teaming up with Indonesia's National Nurses association to distribute medical and financial support, as well as care packages.
They have raised almost $5,000 so far, Dr Purdey said.
The ABC understands many other Indonesian community groups and members in New South Wales, South Australia, and other states are also raising money to help their home country.
"This is a call out to help more for one of our closest neighbours in the north," Ms Nigro said.
More Than 65K COVID Vaccines Wasted in Alabama as Delta Variant Surges .
Alabama has the lowest amount of fully COVID-19 vaccinated residents at just 34 percent.According to a report from State Health Officer Scott Harris, Alabama has wasted at least 65,511 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. While that number accounts for less than 1.5 percent of the more than 5 million coronavirus vaccines doses that Alabama has received, Harris said it represents an "extremely unfortunate" reality.