JAKARTA: The Indonesian government has picked an uninhabited island off Jakarta to isolate people believed to have been exposed to coronavirus.
A group of 188 Indonesians working as crew members of the World Dream cruise ship will be the first ones to be quarantined on Sebaru Kecil, which is part a cluster of islands off the northern coast of the capital.
Health Ministry official Achmad Yurianto said the hospital ship KRI Dr. Soeharso was on its way to repatriate the crew members through a ship-to-ship transfer in the Durian Strait in the Natuna Sea, Indonesia’s northern maritime border.
“The navy ship is scheduled to receive the crew members from the cruise ship on Wednesday morning, and they will be taken directly to Sebaru Kecil island,” he told Arab News. “They are expected to arrive before dawn on Thursday. They will be under observation there for 14 days.”
According to a Feb. 9 statement by Dream Cruises, which operates World Dream, Hong Kong health authorities declared all passengers and 1,814 crew members on board the ship to be coronavirus negative following a scare of potential infection from Chinese passengers on a previous cruise.
The Indonesian government's idea to choose one of the country’s 17,000 islands was floated earlier this month in the wake of protests from locals on Natuna Island, where more than 200 people were quarantined for two weeks after the authorities evacuated them from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the center of the outbreak, late January.
Yurianto said there were vacant facilities on the uninhabited island, such as a rehabilitation center for drug addicts, that could be used.
“The facilities were built in 2008 and we don’t use them anymore since we changed our approach to dealing with drug addiction, but the buildings and the facilities are still well maintained, so we can still use them.”
Yurianto said no coronavirus cases had been reported in Indonesia so far.
Indonesia is also preparing to repatriate 69 out of 78 citizens who worked as Diamond Princess cruise ship crew members. The vessel is docked in Yokohama, Japan. About 700 people on board tested positive with nine Indonesian crew members among them.
“We are still working out the details whether to fetch them by plane or by ship, we have not taken any decisions yet,” Yurianto said.
China’s ambassador to Indonesia, Xiao Qian, said during a foreign policy forum in Jakarta on Monday that the number of newly confirmed and suspected cases were both declining. “The number of patients cured and discharged from the hospital is growing fairly quickly,” he added.
The ambassador acknowledged that while the COVID-19 coronavirus deserved “our utmost attention and efforts,” there was no need to panic. Even the World Health Organization did not recommend countries to impose travel or trade restrictions on China, he said.
Indonesia and a few neighboring countries have barred Chinese travelers from entering.
Xiao said that more than 97 percent of confirmed cases were within China and those outside the country only accounted for 2.6 percent.
“It proves the epidemic has been confined within China,” he said.