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Jakarta Post

Undocumented Indonesian worker in Taiwan tests positive for COVID-19

  • Budi Sutrisno and Apriza Pinandita

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, February 27, 2020   /   09:52 pm
Undocumented Indonesian worker in Taiwan tests positive for COVID-19 Security guards wear hazmat suits as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus as they check the temperature of arriving customers at a shopping mall in Beijing on Feb. 27. (AFP/Greg Baker)

An Indonesian citizen identified as a 30-year-old undocumented worker in Taiwan was declared Wednesday the country’s 32nd confirmed COVID-19 case after caring for an 80-year-old man who also tested positive for the viral disease.

Local media outlet taiwannews.com reported on Wednesday that the Indonesian woman contracted the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 while taking care of the man at a hospital. He was yet to be confirmed infected when she took care of him from Feb. 11 to 16.

By the time the man was diagnosed for COVID-19 on Sunday, the woman had moved to another place. Authorities began searching for her whereabouts after they discovered she was an undocumented migrant worker.

The police found her on Monday when she was taking care of another patient in a different hospital. She was immediately put in an isolation room on Monday evening before eventually being diagnosed with COVID-19 on Wednesday.

Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (CDC) deputy director Chuang Jen-hsiang said as quoted by taiwannews.com that the woman had “mild symptoms [of the viral disease]” and was currently staying in a hospital isolation ward.

The Taiwan Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) found that she traveled by train and a bus serving Route 38 between New Taipei’s Shulin and Banciao districts multiple times between Feb. 16 and 19. She had also met with a friend visiting from Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan on Feb. 18.

Read also: Indonesian domestic worker in Singapore recovers from COVID-19

Chuang said those who came into direct contact with both the Indonesian woman and the elderly man she cared for in the hospital had tested negative for the disease.

Taiwan’s CDC, however, was still searching for others who might have come into contact with them outside the hospital, the deputy director went on to say.

A separate taiwannews.com report mentioned that the Indonesian woman had livestreamed her experience in quarantine on Facebook and TikTok. She also exposed her face and revealed information about the hospital to viewers.

She posted a message on her Facebook account saying "Mbak nya santuuyyy pdhl + kena virus CORONA" (This woman is so relaxed despite testing positive for the novel coronavirus infection). During the livestream, she sang merrily and showed the IV needle in her hand, and presented a medical prescription on which the name of the hospital was visible.

The video and screenshots of her livestream have been widely shared on social media among the migrant worker community in Taiwan.

According to the report, Taiwanese health authorities are not allowed to disclose the names of hospitals treating virus-infected patients to avoid unnecessary panic both inside and outside the hospital.

Concerned migrant workers later reported the incident to local health authorities, who may decide to hand out punishments under Taiwanese law.

The Foreign Ministry’s director for citizen protection, Judha Nugraha, said Thursday the Indonesian Economic and Trade Office (KDEI) in Taipei had confirmed the woman’s status as an undocumented migrant worker who worked as a caregiver.

He added the woman’s condition was stable.

Read also: Taiwan remains safe for travelers: Tourism bureau

“KDEI Taipei has coordinated with Taiwan’s health authorities to ensure that she is handled as well as possible. We will continue to closely monitor the condition of the migrant worker,” Judha said.

The trade office was also coordinating with Taiwanese authorities regarding her medical treatment fee, the director said.

Workers rights NGO Migrant CARE executive director Wahyu Susilo said the woman should remain in Taiwan to undergo proper medical procedure there.

“It might be technically difficult if she wants to fly back home. Since she has been treated in an isolation room, it’s better for her to remain where she is and receive proper treatment,” Wahyu told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

He added that he hoped authorities could provide the best care for the migrant worker regardless of her legal status. “In regard to World Health Organization standards, I think Taiwanese authorities should set aside the patient’s status and focus on the treatment.”