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Jakarta Post

Govt downplays reports of Chinese tourist who tested positive for coronavirus after Bali sojourn

  • Kharishar Kahfi and Gemma Holliani Cahya

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, February 14, 2020   /   07:30 am
Govt downplays reports of Chinese tourist who tested positive for coronavirus after Bali sojourn Health workers wearing protective gear take part in an exercise in handling a suspected patient at Sanglah Hospital in Denpasar on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on Feb. 12. (AFP/SONNY TUMBELAKA)

The Health Ministry has played down the news that a Chinese tourist who traveled from Wuhan to Bali last month tested positive for the novel coronavirus a few days after he left the resort island.

The Health Ministry’s disease control and environmental health directorate general secretary, Achmad Yurianto, said on Thursday that the patient could have been infected in Shanghai after he returned from Bali and reiterated that Bali had yet to detect any positive coronavirus cases. Therefore, Bali’s condition was “insufficient to infect people”.

Authorities in Huainan city in Anhui province, China, reported via Weibo on Feb. 5 the travel history of a Chinese national identified as Jin who had tested positive for the new coronavirus. The patient flew to Denpasar, Bali, on Jan. 22 on a Lion Air flight from Wuhan (JT2618) and left on a Garuda Indonesia flight from Denpasar to Shanghai (GA858) on Jan. 28. Chinese authorities advised passengers who had been on either flight to quarantine themselves and check for fever.

Read also: Tourist tests positive for coronavirus eight days after return from Bali: Chinese authorities

The Indonesian Health Ministry, however, did not have any plans to advise the passengers similarly. "If we find this Jin, we will speak up. There’s no way we will tell people, ‘Hey, you are under observation because you might get infected by someone that I suspect [of being infected by the virus].’ It’s just a suspicion, and people would get panicked. One thing is for sure: on Jan. 22 all [Lion Air] passengers were examined and received a health alert card [upon entering Indonesia],” Achmad said in a press briefing.

Achmad said his office had sent queries to both Lion Air and Garuda Indonesia and had found two passengers with the surname Jin, one an adult and the other a minor. Both flew on Lion Air JT2618 on Jan. 22 and Garuda Indonesia GA858 on Jan. 28.

“Our suspicion falls on two passengers on those flights: the young Jin and the older Jin. However, their seats are far apart so they’re probably not family,” he said.

The health ministry official went on to say that it was possible that Jin, who reportedly tested positive on Feb. 5, was not infected in Indonesia. Achmad said that the average incubation period of the novel coronavirus was 10 days and, therefore, by his own calculations, Jin should have been infected by the coronavirus on Jan. 27 or 28.

“Assuming that he was in Indonesia on Jan. 27, that was a time when we did not have any positive cases of the novel coronavirus. We tested specimens from two Indonesian citizens and 12 foreigners, and all of them tested negative,” Achmad said.

This photo taken on Feb. 4 shows a medical staff member showing a test tube after taking samples taken from a person to be tested for the new coronavirus at a quarantine zone in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, in China's central Hubei province. This photo taken on Feb. 4 shows a medical staff member showing a test tube after taking samples taken from a person to be tested for the new coronavirus at a quarantine zone in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, in China's central Hubei province. (AFP/-)

As the ministry had not recorded any significant increase in influenza-like illnesses during that period, Achmad said he believed that “Bali’s condition at that time was insufficient for him to be infected by the novel coronavirus.”

“We also know that he got on a taxi or other public transportation upon returning to Shanghai on Jan. 28. He might have been infected there.”

Achmad said the ministry would try to confirm Jin’s identity with relevant authorities, including the Huainan CDC, through the Indonesian Embassy in Beijing and the Immigration Office. Once the ministry obtained Jin’s full identity, officials would determine which hotels he stayed at in Bali, Achmad said.

“This is not simply about this specific Jin but about how we prepare for strong protection and detection. He is in his country now. We wish him a speedy recovery. Our focus is on Bali right now,” he said.

More on Jin

On Thursday, The Jakarta Post obtained new information from the Huainan city government website about a coronavirus patient in Huainan identified as Jin with a matching travel history – from Huainan to Wuhan on Jan. 22 – and a matching infection chronology to the Jin referenced in the Weibo announcement.

According to information posted the Huainan Municipal People's Government Health Committee website on Feb. 5, a male, 35-year-old patient named Jin was confirmed to have COVID-19, the illness resulting from the novel coronavirus, on Feb. 4. He lived in an apartment in Tianjia'an district and was admitted to an isolation room in a city hospital on Jan. 30.

The entry did not mention any travel history to Bali, but it did mention that he was in Wuhan on Jan. 22, which is consistent with the information that he had traveled to Denpasar from an airport in Wuhan on Jan. 22.

Earlier, the Post reported separate information from the Huainan Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), announced via Weibo, that a patient named Jin departed on Lion Air flight JT2618 from Wuhan – the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak – to Bali on Jan. 22. He took Garuda Indonesia flight GA858 from Denpasar to Shanghai on Jan. 28 and checked into a hotel in Shanghai at 1:30 a.m. on Jan. 29.

Read also: Garuda disinfects aircraft following report of confirmed coronavirus case on Bali-Shanghai flight

The CDC also wrote that on Jan. 29 Jin boarded the fourth car of the G1814 train from Shanghai to South Nanjing at 2:15 p.m. After arriving in South Nanjing at 3:22 p.m., he continued his journey to South Huainan Station by boarding the 15th car of G2809 train. He arrived at South Huainan Station at 3:42 p.m. on Jan. 29.

He later took a taxi to Huaihe Xincheng at 6 p.m. Authorities said they had determined the taxi driver’s identity.

The Post attempted to contact the Huainan Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Huainan Health Commission on Thursday by phone, but the officials with whom reporters spoke decline to provide any information.

Combining information on the patient from the Huainan Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Huainan Municipal People's Government Health Committee website, it is likely that the chronology of his trip from Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, to him being quarantined at Huainan is as follows.

Jan. 22 at 3:05 p.m. (Wuhan time): departed on flight JT2618 to Denpasar, Bali

Jan. 22 at 10:55 p.m. (local time): arrived at I Gusti Ngurah Rai Airport in Bali

Jan. 28 at 4:45 p.m.: flew on GA858 from Bali to Shanghai

Jan. 29 1:30 a.m. (Shanghai time): arrived in Shanghai and went to a hotel

Jan. 29: took a train from Shanghai to South Nanjing and later to South Huainan Station

Jan. 30: admitted to a hospital in Huainan

Feb. 4: tested positive for COVID-19

Feb. 5: Huainan CDC issued health advisories to passengers who had been on flights JT2618 and GA858 and those on Jin’s other modes of transportation. (aly/hol)