The Jakarta Post
After a week of mulling over the best course of action, the government has made the decision to repatriate 68 Indonesian crew members of the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan.
Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy said 68 out of the 78 Indonesian citizens on the cruise ship would be taken home by air, without specifying whether they would be flown out in a commercial or military airplane.
“What is important now is [the evacuation] would be carried out using an aircraft. The evacuation will occur after we coordinate over the time of the evacuation with the Japanese government,” the minister said in his office on Thursday as quoted by kompas.com.
Family member shows a picture of their son Dimas Wahyu Pratama who is still aboard the Diamond Princess in Need, Mojosongo, Boyolali, Central Java, Wednesday (2/26/2020). (Antara/Aloysius Jarot Nugroho )
Two Indonesian crew members who were declared healthy chose to stay in Japan, while the eight who tested positive for the coronavirus were still under treatment in Japan.
Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said initially that nine people tested positive. However, she later confirmed that authorities found that one of the nine had in fact tested negative, meaning only eight Indonesians aboard the ship were infected.
“The evacuation is voluntary. If our citizens decide to stay there, we cannot force them to be evacuated,” Retno said.
Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto said the 68 Indonesians would be quarantined on the largely uninhabited Sebaru Island in Thousand Islands regency, Jakarta, upon returning to Indonesia.
Aerial photo of Sebaru Kecil Island in the Thousand Islands, Jakarta, Monday (2/26/2020). (Antara/Akbar Nugroho Gumay)
The island will hold in quarantine 188 Indonesian crew members of the World Dream cruise ship, which suspended its operations after docking in Hong Kong and spending days in quarantine at the Kai Tak Cruise terminal earlier this month.
The crew was picked up by the Dr. Soeharso naval hospital ship in the Durian Strait, Karimun, Riau Islands, on Wednesday afternoon and transported to Sebaru Island for observation.
“They [Diamond Princess crew] will be put on the same island [as the World Dream crew]. However, the quarantine zones and buildings will be separated,” Terawan said.
The government has been in discussions with its Japanese counterpart regarding the technicalities of the evacuation. The Indonesian government previously said evacuating citizens from the Diamond Princess would risk the spread of infection.
“[We are] being careful and considering [the possible consequences] in handling the situation. We cannot be pressured or in a hurry […] All decisions must be thought out carefully,” President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said on Wednesday.
Japanese authorities quarantined the 3,711 passengers and crew members of the Diamond Princess for two weeks from Feb. 5. By the time the quarantine was over 14 days later, 634 of those aboard tested positive for the coronavirus.
Before the decision to repatriate the Indonesians aboard the Diamond Princess was announced, the crew members had expressed hope that the government would airlift them home to prevent any further chance of infection. (syk)