The Jakarta Post
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has asked for local residents’ understanding over Jakarta’s decision to use a military base in Natuna, Riau Islands, as the location of quarantine for 243 people who were evacuated over the weekend from coronavirus-hit Wuhan and other cities in Hubei province, China.
Jokowi said the government had previously prepared several locations to observe the health of the evacuated people, but it came to decide on Natuna due to, among other reasons, the preparedness of the medical workers there.
“Not every island can be used [as a quarantine location]. We calculated the level of preparedness of the local health team until we decided on Natuna,” Jokowi said on Monday.
The government’s decision to quarantine the evacuees was previously met with opposition from Natuna residents, who staged protests over the weekend due to concerns over the coronavirus spreading in the region.
In response to the backlash, Jokowi said, “I believe we need the generosity of the Indonesian people. After all, they [the evacuees] are our brothers and sisters.”
The government airlifted on Sunday 243 people – comprising 237 Indonesian nationals, five Indonesian diplomats and a foreigner and spouse of an Indonesian citizen – from cities in Hubei, including Wuhan, where the pneumonia-like virus was first detected.
The evacuees boarded a Batik Air flight and landed at Hang Nadim International Airport in Batam, Riau Islands, at around 8:45 a.m. They were immediately transferred to other planes operated by the Indonesian Air Force and taken to Natuna Island.
The Health Ministry’s disease control and prevention director general, Anung Sugihantono, said separately that, as of Monday, there were no plans from the government to change the location of the quarantine area.
He said a number of government officials, including Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy and Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto, had explained the situation to local officials on Sunday to clear up any miscommunication regarding the establishment of the quarantine area in Natuna.
Anung also said the government would try to accommodate the wishes of the local residents, many of whom had asked that the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) work on additional preventive measures by providing face masks.
“[...] Those who reside near the [quarantine location] had also asked to hold temporary residence away from the area,” said Anung. “BNPB head [Lt. Gen. Doni Monardo] reported yesterday that [the BNPB] will facilitate this if the public needs such things.”
As of Monday, Chinese authorities confirmed that the coronavirus had killed 360 people in the country. Since it first emerged in Wuhan on December, the virus has so far infected more than 16,400 in China and spread to at least 24 nations, AFP reported.