Nicola Smith and Randy Mulyanto, Jakarta – Born in mid-May in Tlanakan, in Indonesia's East Java province, one of the country's youngest Covid-19 victims barely had a chance at life.
The joy at birth of the baby boy brought multiple visitors to his family home to congratulate his proud parents, but their well-intentioned cuddles ultimately led to the devastating sorrow of his death.
Local health officials said the tiny infant, who has not been publicly named, probably contracted the killer virus at just 28 days old, and died two weeks later after suffering high fever, coughing and laboured breathing.
"Based on the contract tracing we carried out, the baby contracted Covid-19 from neighbours who visited him soon after he was born," Syaiful Hidayat, the local Covid-19 taskforce chief, told the Jakarta Post. He said many visitors had embraced the newborn.
East Java and South Sulawesi have become regional hotspots for the coronavirus in Indonesia, which on Monday hit 55,092 infections and 2,805 fatalities, the highest death toll in East Asia outside China.
With national daily cases in triple figures, the baby's death is tragically not an anomaly in the world's fourth most populous country, which has seen an unusually high number of deaths and infections among infants from a disease that is normally seen as afflicting mainly the old.
Last week the Indonesian Paediatric Society (IDAI) reported that more than 200 children, including newborns and infants under five years old, were suspected to have died from the coronavirus outbreak that has strained the country's fragile health system to breaking point.
The IDAI revealed that at least 1,543 children in Indonesia had tested positive for the virus since the country announced its case in March, while over 6,000 had symptoms but had not yet been tested.
"The data is devastating," the society's chairman, Dr Aman Bhakti Pulungan, told a committee meeting in the nation's House of Representatives.
Government figures differ, reflecting the daunting task of aggregating data in an archipelago nation consisting of more than 17,500 islands. Officially 1,251 children aged 0 to five and 3,135 aged six to 17 had contracted coronavirus as of Monday, with 29 infants and 16 older children dying.
However, in an interview with the Telegraph, Dr Pulungan said the data that had been gathered each week via IDAI members pointed anecdotally to a much higher death toll.
"Most of the suspected [deaths], when we classify them as suspect, there is, of course, a clinical manifestation" of the coronavirus, he said.
The rising incidence of child mortality was mainly linked to already high death rates from pneumonia, diarrhoea, malnutrition and tuberculosis, added Dr Pulungan.
Children were being brought to hospital too late to help them, he explained, adding that parents were often afraid to visit healthcare facilities during the pandemic.
Paediatricians had also been falsely accused of creating fear, he said. "Some people said we are trying to make people afraid. But this is the data and we are the experts."
Indonesia, which reacted later to the pandemic than other Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines, had been lulled into a false sense of security by earlier reports that infants were not so susceptible to the coronavirus, Dr Pulungan said.
The conclusion did not apply to a country like Indonesia with a high incidence of mortality among the young. Although the regions of Kalimantan and Papua had managed to avoid child deaths through good preparation, he said, adding: "Not one child should have to die."
Official national figures reported by the Indonesian health ministry in early June indicated an even higher rate for child morbidity than the IDAI, recording more than 380 deaths among 7,152 children classified as "patients under monitoring."
Achmad Yurianto, a senior health ministry official, told Reuters that the figures revealed that "Covid-19 proves we have to fight against malnutrition."
He said Indonesian children were caught in a "devil's circle" of malnutrition and anaemia that increased their vulnerability to the coronavirus, comparing malnourished children to weak structures that "crumble after an earthquake".
Malnutrition in Indonesia, a developing country of 270 million, has resulted in stunting, anaemia among mothers, and obesity, according to the United Nations Children's Fund. Nearly one in three Indonesian children under five is stunted, it says.
This, and poor child health facilities, mean that the impact on children compares poorly even with countries with soaring infection rates.
Official figures at the end of May gave Indonesia a high rate of child death, at 2.1 per cent, while those under 24 accounted for a little over 0.1 per cent in the United States.
Dr Wahdini Hakim, Indonesia health advisor for Save the Children, said it was a misconception in Indonesia that only older generations were more vulnerable.
"Looking at the data, we have the highest number of cases among children compared to other countries. And many of them are still infants," she told the Telegraph. "I think not many people are aware of the risks that this disease presents to children."
Many had been infected by parents who did not know how to protect their children and households from the virus, added Dr Hakim.
Infants were also at higher risk because of the disruption to essential health services, including "maternal and child health, family planning, nutrition services, diarrhoea management and immunisation," she warned.
The problem had been worsened by "insufficient funds as a result of diverting support to the outbreak response plan, and then limited number of the health workers that focus on immunisation because they have been diverted to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic," she said.
Dicky Budiman, a PhD researcher in global health security and pandemics at Griffith University in Australia, agreed that "immunisation also has an influence on the vulnerability of Indonesian children in areas exposed to Covid-19."
He added: "The more complete the child gets immunised, the more the child has the possibility of having the immunity to fight Covid-19," while urging the government to keep schools closed until the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Dini Widiastuti, executive director at Yayasan Plan International Indonesia foundation, focusing on child protection, called for more research to assess the vulnerability of the nation's children.
"There is a real serious need to increase testing and transparency of gender and age disaggregated data," she said.