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Jakarta Post

Indonesia to decide whether to ban more Chinese imports over coronavirus concerns

  • Adrian Wail Akhlas and Norman Harsono

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, February 4, 2020   /   10:47 am
Indonesia to decide whether to ban more Chinese imports over coronavirus concerns Health workers provide help to patients suspect Corona virus during a simulation of medical treatment at Raja Ahmad Tabib Hospital, Tanjungpinang, Riau Islands, Friday (1/31/2020). Raja Ahmad Tabib Hospital became one of the hospitals in Riau Islands that was appointed by the government as a referral hospital in handling the virus from Wuhan, China. (Antara/Andri Mediansyah)

The government is to decide today whether to ban more Chinese imports in addition to live animals, which may include food and beverages, as a precaution to prevent the coronavirus from spreading into the country.

Trade Minister Agus Suparmanto told reporters on Monday that the measure would be put in place soon and would remain in place until the virus has been contained.

“We will obviously stop live animal imports from China while we are still considering banning other products,” said Agus in Jakarta after a ministerial meeting about the coronavirus, adding that the government “will only stop imports of products that could potentially spread the coronavirus”.

The government, he added, would be looking to other countries to meet the demand for imported products to make up for the ban of imports from China. China is Indonesia’s biggest trade partner. The Southeast Asian country imports garlic and fruit, among other food and beverages, from China.

Read also: Indonesia set to ban live animal imports from China as coronavirus fears grow

At the time of writing, the coronavirus had killed 426, all but one in China, and had infected more than 20,000 globally. The infections surpassed those caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), the result of another strain of coronavirus that originated in China in 2003.

The Indonesian government declared on Sunday that it would ban all travel to and from China to prevent the spread of the deadly and highly contagious coronavirus.

The ban, which took effect at 12 a.m. on Monday, prevents visitors who have stayed in China for 14 days or more from visiting or transiting in Indonesia. The government will suspend visa-free and visa-on-arrival provisions for Chinese citizens.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said that the government would also calculate the coronavirus' effect on the country’s economy, including on tourism.

“Tourists are not only from China but we should also calculate the psychological effect on other countries because of the situation,” said Retno, adding that the government would also establish a hotline for Indonesians to contact the authorities regarding the coronavirus issue.

Separately, Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo) chairman Hariyadi Sukamdani said the virus had hit tourism and had started to take a toll on trade and he called for the government to revise its economic growth target to 5 percent, down from the initial 5.3 percent target.

“We expect economic growth will reach only 5 percent if the situation continues,” Hariyadi told reporters, adding that the country had lost about 1.7 million foreign tourists from China while trade activities had started to lose ground because of the coronavirus.

”From us to them, it is mostly commodities such as crude palm oil and minerals. These exports have been affected,” said Hariyadi. “Meanwhile, our imports from China, most of which are manufactured products and household goods, have all slowed.”

He added that businesses were looking at other markets to replace China but it was challenging as the economic superpower offered competitive prices.

Read also: Indonesia tourism, trade prone to Wuhan coronavirus impact

However, the outbreak has yet to affect the shipment of products from China to Indonesia in the e-commerce sector, according to online marketplace Bukalapak spokesperson Intan Wibisono.

“For now, trade activities and goods distribution remain as usual in the Bukalapak platform,” Intan told The Jakarta Post over a text message. “We have yet to see a change in consumer behavior as we still record up to 2 million transactions every day.”

Statistics Indonesia (BPS) warned on Monday that the coronavirus outbreak could cloud the outlook this year as a total of 16.1 million foreign tourists visited Indonesia throughout 2019, falling short of the government’s target of attracting 20 million tourists,

“The coronavirus outbreak in China will no doubt lower foreign arrivals from China to Indonesia this year,” said Suhariyanto during a press briefing on Monday.

Read also: Indonesia welcomes 16.1m foreign tourists in 2019, coronavirus clouds tourism outlook

Malaysia sent the most tourists to Indonesia, followed by Singapore, China, Australia and Timor Leste in 2019, according to BPS data. In December alone, around 154,200 China citizens visited Indonesia, or 11.2 percent of the total 1.38 million foreigners entering the country.

“We still have work to attract more foreign tourists to come into Indonesia,” Suhariyanto added.