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Jakarta Post

COVID-19: Two Batam residents evade quarantine over fears of losing income

  • Fadli

    The Jakarta Post

Batam   /   Wed, March 4, 2020   /   06:30 am
COVID-19: Two Batam residents evade quarantine over fears of losing income Two from 15 Batam residents who are identified as closed contacts from a Singaporean who tested positive for Covid-19 refuse to be quarantined, one of whom escaped from the quarantine room in the Hajj Dormitory. The two Batam residents work as online motorcycle taxi drivers who are currently being chased by the Police. The Hajj Dormitory itself does not appear to have supervision from the security forces or its internal authorities, the door is open and everyone has access to the complex. (JP/Fadli)

Two men in Batam, Riau Islands, who had been in close contact with a Singaporean COVID-19 patient have evaded quarantine, the city's health authorities said on Tuesday.

Both residents work as app-based ojek (motorcycle taxi) drivers and are among the 15 people identified as having been in close contact with three Singapore residents who tested positive for COVID-19 after visiting Batam. The two were supposed to be quarantined with nine other people at the haj dormitory complex in Batam from March 2 to 8, while the four other contacts are being quarantined in their homes.

"One of them was already quarantined but then ran away. Another has refused since the beginning and can't be reached now. They refused to be quarantined because they're afraid of losing their jobs and income,” Riau Islands Health Agency head Tjeptjep Yudiana told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday. “We're currently looking for ways to give them money [to replace their lost earnings].”

He said his agency had requested the local police's help to search for the two men so they could proceed with the quarantine.

The Health Agency is using a room on the third floor of a building in the complex to quarantine the 11 people along with three observation and medical workers. The rest of the complex remains open to the public, Tjeptjep said.

He added that medical workers were not yet familiar with how to implement a quarantine during a virus outbreak, which could impede the success of the process. 

He also acknowledged that Indonesia's capabilities in identifying those who had been in close contact with COVID-19 patients lagged far behind those of neighboring Singapore, as Indonesia relied on interviews, while the city-state used CCTV cameras installed in many public areas.

"However, we have some experience from the quarantine of returnees from Wuhan in Natuna [...] Our officers are capable enough to handle [contact tracing]," he said.

Riau Police health division Sr. Comr. Muhammad Haris, who also leads the city’s coronavirus mitigation task force, said he had requested that officers of the Batam Mobile Brigade (Brimob) help secure the quarantine area. 

He added the police were still searching for the two men.

On Sunday, Singapore’s Health Ministry announced that three people, two Singaporean citizens and one Myanmar national, had tested positive for the disease after visiting Batam from Feb. 21 to Feb. 23.

The 15 people identified as having close contact with the three patients are 33-year-old P, along with his wife and two children, and 39-year-old CSS, along with 10 of her relatives and close acquaintances. P acted as Case 103’s driver during the Singaporean’s visit, while CSS worked as her domestic helper. The two men who evaded quarantine are among CSS’s acquaintances. (ars)