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Jakarta Post

Still no case reported in Indonesia as COVID-19 reaches Kuwait, Bahrain

  • A. Muh. Ibnu Aqil and Arya Dipa

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta/Bandung   /   Tue, February 25, 2020   /   08:08 am
Still no case reported in Indonesia as COVID-19 reaches Kuwait, Bahrain The Bali representative office of Bank Indonesia uses a screen to explain measures the government has taken to address the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on industry during the launch of the Bali Convention Exhibition Bureau on Feb. 13. (JP/Zul Trio Anggono)

Indonesia has reported zero cases of the novel coronavirus as of Monday evening, while Kuwait and Bahrain have confirmed their first cases and two foreigners have been reported to suffer from the disease upon returning from vacations in Bali.

Hasan Sadikin Hospital in Bandung reported on Monday that three patients suspected of having contracted the novel coronavirus had all tested negative. The three had been treated at the hospital since Feb. 20 and had swab samples sent to the Health Ministry’s laboratory in Jakarta. One of the patients, who lives and works in Australia, had come to Bandung after visiting Bali and Surabaya. Another had complained of flu-like symptoms after visiting Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, and the third had reported symptoms after returning from Vietnam.

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has spread further in the Middle East as Afghanistan, Bahrain and Kuwait announced their first cases on Monday, and the death toll in Iran climbed to 12 – the highest number outside China. As of Monday, more than 79,500 confirmed cases have been reported from at least 32 countries, including Indonesia's neighbors of Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Australia.

Nine Indonesian crew members of the Diamond Princess cruise ship tested positive for the virus, bringing the number of Indonesians infected outside the country to 10. A domestic worker in Singapore was the first Indonesian reported to have contracted the virus. She has since recovered.

'Not COVID-19'

A Japanese national reportedly tested positive for the new coronavirus in Japan after visiting Bali for a vacation. An Indonesian Health Ministry official said that, according to Japanese authorities, the man was infected with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Health Ministry Disease Control Directorate General secretary Achmad Yurianto confirmed that the man had visited Bali but insisted that SARS-CoV-2 was different from COVID-19.

“There, he was diagnosed by the doctors to have been infected with the SARS coronavirus type 2,” Yurianto told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Yurianto said that, in dealing with Indonesian crew members of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, Japan had consistently referred to their sickness as COVID-19 rather than saying that they had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Therefore, he insisted, the two things were different.

A World Health Organization website explains that COVID-19 is the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2. When the Post asked Yurianto to elaborate on his insistence that the Japanese national did not have COVID-19 despite being infected with SARS-CoV-2, he maintained his statement. SARS-CoV-2, previously called nCoV-19, is a strain of the original SARS coronavirus that caused the SARS outbreak in 2003.

Previously, Japanese public broadcaster NHK and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government reported that the Japanese man was in his 60s, lived in Tokyo and worked at a senior citizen care facility.

The man visited a healthcare institution on Feb. 12 after developing “cold-like symptoms” but was sent home, as he was not diagnosed with pneumonia. He then worked on Feb 13, spent Feb. 14 at home and reportedly travelled to Indonesia on a family vacation on Feb. 15.

The man returned to Japan on Feb. 19 and was soon hospitalized with severe breathing difficulty and said to be in a “serious condition”. He was the 29th reported COVID-19 patient in Japan.

Yurianto said that, while in Indonesia, the Japanese man had only been on the island of Bali and had not reported any symptoms of COVID-19.

On Monday, NHK reported that the man was also a ride-hailing driver, and the Japanese government ordered around 80 people who had been passengers in his car as well as his colleagues to quarantine themselves.

The ministry and the Bali Health Agency in Denpasar would increase active surveillance in Bali and track any possible cases of flu-like diseases and pneumonia within 14 days from Feb. 19, Yurianto said.

He said that, even though the name of the Japanese man was not revealed, the ministry would still be able to track where the Japanese man had been in Bali, as it had been informed of the man’s passport number.

Meanwhile, Omni Hospital Pulomas vaccinologist Dirga Sakti Rambe said cases like that of the Japanese man could have been going on under the radar, as there had been cases of people infected with the coronavirus but without showing any symptoms.

Even though, according to WHO standards, ports of entry like airports should conduct temperature checks and issue health cards for passengers, there could still be cases of missed detection, he said.

“[Asymptomatic] cases like this would not be detected in any airport around the world. This is what makes the COVID-19 management hard,” Dirga told the Post.

“This is not the fault of an airport’s detection system, but it is the character of this disease. It’s getting harder to control the outbreak because of asymptomatic transmission,” Dirga said.

“That’s why it must be followed up, where he went etc. Ideally, we should do contact tracking on him,” Dirga said.