The Jakarta Post
Forty-eight Indonesian citizens have tested positive for COVID-19 overseas, says the government, including those infected while on international cruises, proven to be a hot spot for the deadly virus spread.
As of Thursday, the Foreign Ministry had recorded 14 confirmed cases in Singapore, 13 in Malaysia, nine in Japan, eight in India, one in Taiwan, one in Australia, one in Saudi Arabia and one in Macau.
The nine infected in Japan, crew members of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, as well as one patient in Singapore, have recovered.
The Foreign Ministry’s director for citizen protection, Judha Nugraha, said on Thursday that the government was coordinating with authorities in Malaysia to get more information about the infected citizens linked to the recent tabligh, an Islamic religious mass gathering, in Kuala Lumpur that had caused a significant surge for Malaysia’s confirmed cases, putting the country into partial lockdown since Wednesday.
More than 16,000 participants attended the event on Feb. 27 to March 1, including 696 Indonesians, 215 Filipinos, 130 Vietnamese, 90 Singaporeans, 79 Cambodians and 74 Bruneians, The Straits Times reports.
The North Sumatra administration ordered local administrations to trace 350 residents across the province who had returned from the gathering. They were placed in observation in an effort to prevent the coronavirus from spreading further.
Judha said the Foreign Ministry had been coordinating with a mosque in Kebon Jeruk, West Jakarta -- the headquarters of the tabligh congregation – to obtain comprehensive data for contact tracing.
“The Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur has sent a diplomatic notice to the Malaysian government to also get the data as soon as possible,” Judha told reporters in a teleconference on Thursday.
However, the contact tracing, Judha said, might be difficult as those who had participated in the gathering had not been organized by the mosque.
“We have called on the participants to reach out to us or to the Indonesian Embassy immediately,” he added.
The government is monitoring closely the well-being of Indonesians who have tested positive in the country, as well as those who are in areas prone to the disease, including Indonesian crew members of international cruises.
“This is a new phenomenon where such cruises are becoming a hot spot for COVID-19 infection. To protect our citizens, when the ships are cruising, the Indonesian government will cooperate with the cruise operators to ensure the crew members are healthy,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah during the live teleconference.
Such measures are what the government took when 78 Indonesian crew members were stuck on the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the coast of Japan recently. Fifty-seven Indonesian crew members are still stranded aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship in California’s Port of Oakland.
The government is closely monitoring the situation, as the plan for evacuation has been delayed due to health certification matters. Initially, the government planned to charter a flight from San Francisco to Belgrade and then New Delhi to Batam.
However, the plan has been delayed as United States authorities have yet to issue health certificates that declare the crew negative of COVID-19.
“Our missions in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, DC have contacted the authorities and the cruise principal to ensure the well-being of our fellow Indonesians on board,” said Judha.
The government has asked the cruise management to make sure the Indonesians are in good condition and off duty until the evacuation takes place.
“The ship is being disinfected. After that, the crew will be under 14-day quarantine inside the ship,” he said, adding that the evacuation could be performed as soon as the quarantine ended.