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Bali running out of oxygen as Indonesia ponders COVID-19 curbs

The Indonesian island of Bali is running out of oxygen for its COVID-19 patients as infections surge, the chief of its health agency said, as Southeast Asia's biggest country struggles with the region's worst COVID epidemic.

Bali running out of oxygen as Indonesia ponders COVID-19 curbs

A medical worker pulls an oxygen cylinder to be delivered to the emergency ward at a government-run hospital amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia, July 23, 2021, in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Nyoman Hendra Wibowo/ via REUTERS

JAKARTA: The Indonesian island of Bali is running out of oxygen for its COVID-19 patients as infections surge, the chief of its health agency said, as Southeast Asia's biggest country struggles with the region's worst COVID-19 epidemic.

Bali, famous for its tourist beaches and temples, along with the main island of Java and 15 other regions are under tight coronavirus restrictions, due to expire on Sunday (Jul 25). The government is debating whether to extend them or not.

Police officers walk as they guard the oxygen distribution at a refill factory amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Mengwi, Badung, Bali, Indonesia, July 22, 2021, in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Fikri Yusuf/ via REUTERS

"We've had an oxygen shortage since Jul 14 and it's getting critical by the day because of a surge in new cases," Ketut Suarjaya, the head of Bali's health agency, said as quoted by Antara state news agency as saying on Friday.

"There's an oxygen crisis in Bali." 

READ: Uneven distribution, bureaucracy hamper Indonesia's COVID-19 national vaccination efforts

Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country, has had more than 3 million coronavirus infections and 80,598 deaths according to official data. The spread, driven by the Delta variant, has shown no sign of slowing.

Research organisation Our World in Data said the country had a death rate three times higher than the global average.

The debate over coronavirus restrictions has pitted health experts, who say it is premature to ease curbs during the surge of infections, against employer groups that have warned of mass layoffs unless the curbs are relaxed.

READ: COVID-19: Singapore to send regular shipments of emergency oxygen supplies to Indonesia

Suarjaya said patients in Bali needed 113.3 tonnes of oxygen on Thursday, while hospitals only had 40.5 tonnes. He was not immediately available for comment on Saturday.

Oxygen shortages have also been seen in Java. The government has begun to import oxygen supplies from countries such as the United States and China.

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Source: Reuters/gs

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