Indonesia holds mass vaccination to scale up virus fight

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Thousands of Indonesians lined up at a sports stadium to get a COVID-19 vaccine dose Thursday in a one-day, mass vaccination event that’s part of a push to dramatically scale up the nation’s virus fight as hospitals fill with sick patients.

Meanwhile, President Joko Widodo announced new community restrictions and the mobilization of the National Police and other resources to combat the surging infections.

The efforts follow a warning earlier this week from the Red Cross that Indonesia is “on the edge of a COVID-19 catastrophe" and urgently needs to increase medical care, testing and vaccinations.

The emergency restrictions on public activity are to take effect Saturday through July 20 on Indonesia's main island of Java and the popular tourist island of Bali. “I call on people to be disciplined in complying with these restrictions for the safety of all,” Widodo said.

He said the government will mobilize civil servants and healthcare workers. “The Health Ministry will continuously increase hospital capacity, centralized isolation facilities as well as the availability of medicines, medical equipment and oxygen tanks,” he said.

Thursday’s mass vaccination event was part of efforts to reach a target of 1 million doses per day in July and 2 million in August.

At the stadium in Bekasi, outside Jakarta, local authorities aimed to vaccine 25,000 people. Tanti Rohilawati, chief of Bekasi’s health agency, said more than 1,500 health care workers, including 550 to give the shots, were involved in the event.

More than 80% of beds at the Bekasi city hospital are filled, and Mayor Rahmat Effendi said tents were set up in the hospital's parking lot to treat COVID-19 patients with moderate and severe symptoms.

Similar conditions were seen elsewhere. A Red Cross COVID-19 hospital in Bogor, outside of Jakarta, was “overflowing” and using emergency tents as well.

The world's fourth-most populous country has seen a rapid surge in COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks. Indonesia had its deadliest day with 504 people confirmed deaths from the virus on Thursday, while new cases set another record at 24,836. The country has recorded a total of 2,203,108 cases, including 58,995 deaths.

Indonesia aims to inoculate more than 181 million of its 270 million people by March 2022, but authorities have only fully vaccinated 13.6 million people and partially vaccinated another 16.6 million others so far.

On Wednesday, raw materials for 14 million doses of the China-developed Sinovac vaccine arrived. The country has received 118.7 million doses produced by Sinovac, AstraZeneca and Sinopharm.

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Associated Press writer Niniek Karmini contributed to this report.

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