The Jakarta Post
The Magetan regency administration in East Java has decided to quarantine Temboro village, home to Al Fatah Pesantren (Islamic boarding school) and its more than 20,000 santri (Islamic boarding school students), after 43 tested positive for COVID-19 in Malaysia.
"Starting from today [Monday], Temboro is under strict quarantine. No one is allowed to enter the village, and those in the village are not allowed to leave except for emergencies," Magetan Regent Suprawoto told The Jakarta Post on Monday.
Malaysian health authorities announced on Sunday that 43 Malaysian students who had recently returned from the pesantren had tested positive for COVID-19.
Suprawoto said locking down Temboro village was crucial given the fact that some Al Fatah santri lived outside the school complex.
With the decision, he said, thousands of Temboro villagers would also live under quarantine.
Suprawoto said the quarantine measure would be in place until a joint tracing team from the regency and East Java provincial task force completed their job in examining the situation in regard to possible COVID-19 transmissions in the village, especially among Al Fatah students.
He said COVID-19 rapid tests would be conducted for Al Fatah students once testing kits from the provincial task force arrived in Magetan.
He acknowledged, however, that there was a limited amount of rapid testing kits available and he had no idea how many must be used to trace possible cases in Temboro.
Al Fatah boarding school, located some 11 kilometers to the north of the center of Magetan, has more than 22,000 students, 2,000 of which are foreigners, mostly from Southeast Asian countries.
Founded in 1950s, the school occupies three different sites in Temboro and has a great influence on the villagers' social and cultural life.
Al Fatah is also known as the base for an Islamic group known as Jamaah Tabligh, whose members regularly travel far from their homes for months to preach Islamic teachings at mosques and often reaching people with door-to-door visits.
Several COVID-19 cases in Malaysia, India and South Sulawesi have been linked to Jamaah Tabligh events held in the respective regions. It is currently unclear whether any of the Al Fatah santri attended those events.
Suprawoto said he was shocked upon hearing about the cluster of COVID-19 cases from Malaysian authorities, as the Magetan administration had previously been praised by East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa for its successful efforts in containing the spread of the disease.
The regency has recorded only 10 confirmed COVID-19 patients, eight of whom have recovered while one has died. Another is being treated at a public hospital in Madiun.
The deceased patient was a 59-year-old Magetan resident who died at the Moewardi Hospital in Surakarta, Central Java. The other nine cases were linked to him.
With only one active case left, Suprawoto thought the administration had managed to halt the spread of the virus in the regency.
"Then came the shocking report that suggests the presence of a totally different source of transmission in Magetan," he said.
He said his administration had urged Al Fatah to send its foreign students home because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The 43 santri who tested positive in Malaysia were among a batch of 200 Malaysians who had left the pesantren.
Suprawoto said there were still 227 Malaysian students left in Temboro and hundreds others from other Southeast Asian countries who wanted to stay and spend the fasting month in the village.
"I have contacted the Malaysian embassy and they will help us send the remaining Malaysian students home if we decide to do so," he said.
Separately, Khofifah said the provincial task force had sent a tracing team as well as 1,000 rapid test kits to Temboro on Monday afternoon.
According to the official government count, East Java has recorded 590 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 56 deaths as of Monday.