lørdag 17. juli 2021

Making coffins, giving shelter: volunteers step in as Covid overwhelms Indonesia

Every day, before 7am, volunteers gather in front of a house in Yogyakarta. Wearing masks and maintaining distance, they measure and cut panels of wood, smoothing the edges with sandpaper. For the past 11 days, the front yard has been turned into an emergency casket-making workshop. The coffins are painted white, and lined inside with plastic.

The volunteers are lecturers, security guards, artists and police officers who set aside their time to help the community, which is being ravaged by Covid. They work until nightfall. Indonesia’s Covid outbreak has escalated rapidly over the past six weeks, driven by the more infectious Delta variant, and exacerbated by what health experts describe as a weak public health response. Its daily cases numbers – 56,757 infections on Thursday – have overtaken those of India, making it the centre of Asia’s outbreak.

In cities across Java island, hospitals are so overwhelmed that they are turning patients away. Burial workers are working until after dark to keep up with the fatalities. Almost 70,000 people have died since the pandemic began, according to official records, though this is though to be a huge underestimate.