Thousands of people poured into a vaccination site in pandemic-hit Indonesia this week after amassing outside closed gates and demanding to be let in, a chaotic scene that raised fears over a lack of social distancing as cases and deaths surge.
The incident occurred on Tuesday at a sports hall in the North Sumatran city of Medan, a day before the Southeast Asian country recorded 100,000 official deaths with the Delta variant fueling the outbreak and making Indonesia the epicenter of the pandemic in the region.
Indonesia has fully vaccinated some 8 percent of the population, a fraction of the immunizations in many western nations where rates hover around 50 percent. It has also relied heavily on China’s Sinovac, which has become the poster child of vaccine hesitancy across Asia.
But there was no such hesitancy on display outside the sports hall in Medan that had been converted into a vaccination site dispensing Sinovac. Crowds swelled into the late morning, but the gates remained closed in an apparent attempt to wait for an inspection of the site.
“I saw so many people crowding around, I was starting to worry it was going to be chaotic,” a local reporter told VICE World News, asking not to be identified for fear of backlash from authorities. “What I was worried about happened.”
Anger grew as the hours passed on a hot day. People chanted outside the gate as police officers tried to maintain control. About three hours later, they relented and people began pouring into the site, moving past the police. Footage shows a woman being carried away, apparently from fainting.
Juliana Seijun said she had been waiting since nine in the morning. She was finally allowed in after waiting more than six hours, but it was not easy.
"I lost my shoes, waiting outside, there were so many people jostling to get in," the woman was quoted as saying in footage at the site.
Medan police chief Medan Riko Sunarko told reporters that the crowd had exceeded the maximum amount of 4,000 people because of the circulation of illegal documents for vaccination appointments that had been sold to those outside. He said those with the forms would be contacted at a future date for an appointment. Police have arrested three people on suspicion of selling the documents.
The video went viral in Indonesia, evoking sympathy in viewers but also concern over the lack of social distancing at the site.
Epidemiologist Dicky Budiman from Australia's Griffith University said it looked “very dangerous.”
“This method is certainly a big mistake, besides causing transmission, it will also create a negative campaign for the vaccination program itself,” he told VICE World News.