By Adi Kurniawan
DEPOK, Indonesia (Reuters) – Indonesian volunteer biker Sebastian Dwiyantoro and his team have been particularly busy helping ambulances navigate heavy traffic in Jakarta’s satellite city of Depok to get COVID-19 patients to hospital as infections soar in the country.
The volunteers ride motorbikes in front of the ambulances, the deafening noise of the sirens behind them, freeing up space and stopping other cars to make way for ambulances carrying the sick to medical facilities or corpses to graveyards.
Twenty-four year old Sebastian, who has worked for volunteer group Indonesia Escorting Ambulance for four years in his spare time, says his team now makes up to 20 trips a day versus three or four daily trips before the latest surge in cases.
“Nowadays, we feel scared of (getting infected) with COVID-19 honestly, but I always think this is our call of duty from our heart to help and at the same time we also have to avoid getting infected with COVID-19,” said Sebastian, who normally works as a security guard, wearing a biker jacket and a face mask.
Indonesia has been reporting more than 20,000 new cases and over 400 deaths per day over the past week as the spread of the more contagious Delta variant accelerated infections and strained the country’s healthcare sector.
With a total caseload of 2.28 million and death toll of over 60,500, the country is the worst affected by COVID-19 in Southeast Asia.
The volunteer bikers’ efforts are well appreciated by ambulance drivers.
“We feel very happy whenever these guys escort us because they can break up the traffic for us because traffic in the Depok area is very jammed,” said 42-year old ambulance driver Endang Firtana.
“We don’t know how hard it would be if these guys didn’t help us and we might be late on sending corpses or helping dying patients.”
Indonesia said last week it would put Java, its most populous island, and the resort island of Bali under stricter mobility restrictions from Saturday to July 20 to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
(Reporting by Adi Kurniawan; Writing by Gayatri Suroyo; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)