The Jakarta Post
Indonesia plans to evacuate 188 citizens working as crew members aboard the World Dream cruise ship to an island off Java amid concerns over the coronavirus, the government has said.
Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy confirmed the repatriation plan on Monday following a meeting with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto at the State Palace.
He said the Dr. Soeharso naval hospital ship had headed to the sea off Riau Island on Sunday to pick up the Indonesians abroad the ship, which had anchored in international waters near the province’s Bintan Island to facilitate the transfer of the crew members.
Muhadjir said all of the Indonesian evacuees would be brought to Sebaru Island, which is part of the Thousand Islands regency in Jakarta, for observation.
“Sebaru is an […] uninhabited island,” Muhadjir said. “We consider it safe, because there are no inhabitants on the island and it has good facilities that we can just utilize.”
The World Dream has suspended its operations after docking in Hong Kong earlier this month, where it had spent days in quarantine at Kai Tak Cruise terminal after three Chinese nationals who had been onboard the ship between Jan. 19 and 24 tested positive for the virus, Reuters reported.
The ship’s 1,800 passengers had disembarked in Hong Kong on Feb. 9, leaving onboard some 1,814 crew members, including Indonesians, according to World Dream’s operator Dream Cruises.
Michael Goh, the Dream Cruises’ president, said that Hong Kong authorities had confirmed that all passengers and crew who sailed on the last voyage had gone through extensive health examinations, including body temperature checks.
All samples taken from the 1,814 crew members were negative of coronavirus and all passengers who had left the ship after the last trip had showed no symptoms associated with COVID-19 infection, Goh said in a statement as quoted by Antara.
He said Dream Cruises was working closely with local and regional authorities to facilitate the transfer and return of crew members given the diversity of their nationalities.
The repatriation of citizens aboard the World Dream came as the government planned the evacuation of dozens of Indonesian crew members of coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess, who were still reported healthy after being quarantined with the ship for two weeks.
At least nine of 78 Indonesian crew members on the cruise ship tested positive for coronavirus alongside some 600 other infected people who had boarded the vessel.
Minister Terawan, however, said that in the meantime the government would focus on evacuating Indonesian citizens of the World Dream.
“We now concentrate on the World Dream, because that is the closest to us. This has the smallest risk. We always take the smallest risk first and we will manage to provide good quarantine facilities,” Terawan said.
Terawan said the government had decided to conduct the evacuation by sea in order to anticipate the spread of the virus if any was found.
“This medical aspect must be considered well, not emotionally. It must be one at a time, for the safety of the country since we are still in the green zone,” he added.
Indonesia has yet to confirm any coronavirus cases in the country to date. The far-flung virus, which has spread to some 30 countries, has killed more than 2,500 people in China and infected more than 77,000 worldwide.