Hundreds of children in Indonesia have died from the coronavirus in recent weeks, many of them younger than 5, a mortality rate greater than that of any other country and one that challenges the idea that children face minimal risk from Covid-19, doctors say.
The deaths, more than 100 a week this month, have come as Indonesia confronts its biggest surge yet in coronavirus cases overall. The jump in child deaths coincides with the surge of the Delta variant which has swept through Southeast Asia. Indonesian government reported nearly 50,000 new infections and 1,566 deaths among the entire population on Friday.
Based on reports from pediatricians, children now make up 12.5% of the country’s confirmed cases, an increase over previous months. More than 150 children died from Covid-19 during the week of July 12 alone, with half the recent deaths involving those younger than 5. Overall, Indonesia has reported more than 3 million cases and 83,000 deaths.
More than 800 children in Indonesia younger than 18 have died from the virus since the pandemic began, but the majority of those deaths have occurred only in the past month. Experts said a number of factors contributed to it. Some could be vulnerable to the virus because of underlying health conditions. The country’s low vaccination rate is another factor. Just 16% of Indonesians have received one dose, and only 6% have been fully vaccinated.
At the same time, many hospitals have been stretched beyond their limit by the recent surge in cases. Few hospitals are set up to care for children with Covid. With hospitals at capacity, about two-thirds of adult patients are in isolation at home, which increases the chance children will be infected.