Image: AFP Tjahjono Eranius

JAYAPURA   (ABC)—Hospitals in Indonesia’s Papua and West Papua provinces are being overwhelmed by the devastating COVID-19 outbreak which is spreading across the country.

Until now, Papua and West Papua have largely been spared the brunt of Indonesia’s outbreak—which spiked at more than 54,000 cases on Thursday—but there are fears the situation will worsen.

Indonesia’s Health Minister, Budi Gunadi Sadikin, has warned that the spread of the Delta variant to regions like Papua was concerning given a lack of access to healthcare.

The latest figures from Papua Province stand at more than 27,000 since the pandemic began last year, but with limited hospital beds, a health worker in West Papua’s Raja Ampat regency, Audryn Karma, said many of the sick were being cared for at home.

She said there was still capacity in her regency, but in nearby Sorong, West Papua’s largest city, every hospital was full.

“The government need to campaign more about vaccination because people still get afraid to get vaccine until right now. And we’re still not getting the target number for the vaccination. So it’s really [frustrating] too.”

Sorong City and Manokwari regency went into an eight-day lockdown on Monday, but these restrictions are yet to be imposed elsewhere.

In the capital of Papua Province, Jayapura, Victor Mambor, Chief Editor of the tabloid Jubi newspaper says hospitals are being put under strain because they are providing both COVID-19 testing and care for patients.

Pro-independence protests broke out in Jayapura this week as Indonesia’s parliament moved to extend the special autonomy laws that govern Papua and West Papua.

The laws direct national funding and administrative responsibilities to the provincial government, but critics argue it’s used to reinforce Jakarta’s political control over the region.

Mambor said 33 students were arrested on Wednesday, and there are reports several people were injured in clashes with police.

The police said the protests were shut down because they were in breach of COVID-19 restrictions. PACNEWS

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