Deaths, Hospitalizations Surge as Delta Variant Deals Blow to Poor Countries

SINGAPORE—The fast-spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus is driving up infections in developing countries that are dangerously short on Covid-19 vaccines to battle deadly surges and whose healthcare systems are struggling to cope. 

Indonesia, where Covid-19 cases have reached new highs, has reported about 500 deaths a day in the past week—almost triple the daily levels recorded in early June—data from its health ministry shows. Authorities are racing to add hospital beds as medical workers in parts of the country face shortages of ventilators and isolation rooms. Patients are traveling for hours for proper medical care, said the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which runs a hospital in West Java province and recently set up emergency tents on-site to accommodate the flow.   

“Every day we are seeing this Delta variant driving Indonesia closer to the edge of a Covid-19 catastrophe,” Jan Gelfand, who leads the group’s delegation in the country, said recently.

As the weight of the pandemic has shifted from wealthy countries that have large supplies of vaccines to poor countries that are still struggling to secure them, the World Health Organization and developing nation governments have called for help. The U.S. and others have agreed to step up donations of excess vaccines, but those shots are still insufficient to inoculate large portions of poor country populations.

Vaccines in use now in the West appear effective at protecting against the Delta variant.

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