Indonesia Reports Over 54K COVID Cases, Nearly 1K Deaths, Surpasses India as New Epicenter

Indonesia reported over 54,000 new coronavirus cases and 991 deaths Wednesday, surpassing India as the virus's epicenter in Asia, the Associated Press reported. Officials are worried that the virus's Delta variant is spreading beyond Java and Bali, which were forced into a partial lockdown because of the spread.

Pandu Riono, an epidemiology expert at the University of Indonesia, predicted Wednesday that because the country hasn't been able to curtail the spread yet, the outbreak will continue to grow throughout July. "Emergency social restrictions are still inadequate. They should be twice as stringent since we are facing the Delta variant, which is two times more contagious," Riono said.

Indonesia's Health Ministry said Wednesday the country's total cases are above 2.6 million and total deaths over 69,000, the AP reported. Daily cases averaged around 8,000 in the previous month but are now higher than India's even though Indonesia has done much less testing by population.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Indonesia Outbreaks
Indonesia has been hit hard by a surge of coronavirus cases that have strained hospitals on the main island of Java. Above, workers in protective suits carry a coffin containing the body of a COVID-19 victim to a grave for burial in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia, on Wednesday. Achmad Ibrahim/AP Photo

India reported fewer than 39,000 cases on Wednesday, far below its peak of more than 400,000 daily cases in May, following lockdowns in its worst-hit areas and a stepped-up vaccination drive.

Indonesian Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said the government has identified the spread of the Delta variant in some regions outside Java and Bali. He told lawmakers on Tuesday that across the country, more than 90,000 of the 120,000 hospital beds for COVID-19 patients are occupied.

"Nationally, we still have some room. But the bed occupancy rate is very high in some provinces where the explosion of the Delta variant is concentrated," Sadikin said.

With the increase in deaths over the past month, some residents near Jakarta have begun helping overburdened gravediggers.

"As the diggers are too tired and do not have enough resources to dig, the residents in my neighborhood decided to help," said Jaya Abidin, who lives in Bogor on the outskirts of the capital. "Because if we do not do this we will have to wait in turn a long time for a burial in the middle of the night."

The government is struggling to acquire enough vaccines to reach its target of inoculating more than 181 million of its 270 million people by March 2022. So far, only 15.6 million people have been fully vaccinated.

So far, the world's fourth-most populous country has secured 137.6 million doses of Sinovac, AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines, enough for about 69 million people.

Indonesia COVID Testing
A man undergoes a swab sample test for the coronavirus at a ferry port in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, on Monday. Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP via Getty Images