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Jakarta Post

Nine foreign students at East Java boarding school test positive for COVID-19

  • Asip Hasani

    The Jakarta Post

Surabaya   /   Mon, April 27, 2020   /   12:43 pm
Nine foreign students at East Java boarding school test positive for COVID-19 'Santri' (Islamic boarding school students) line up to wash their hands before boarding the ship KMP Dharma Bahari Sumekar III at Jangkar Port in Situbondo, East Java, on April 4. (Antara/Seno)

Eight Malaysian students and one Thai student from Al Fatah Islamic boarding school in Temboro village, Magetan regency, East Java, have tested positive for COVID-19 after contact tracing and quarantine measures were instated in the village following reports of dozens of students infected with the virus.

The nine foreign santri (Islamic boarding school students) were among 16 students whose swab samples tested positive for COVID-19, Magetan COVID-19 task force spokesman Saif Muchlissun said.

"This is the result of the first phase of contact tracing in Al Fatah pesantren [Islamic boarding school], which we ran after the Malaysian government announced a new cluster originated here," he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday. 

The East Java and Magetan COVID-19 task forces traced the people Al Fatah students had been in contact with early last week after Malaysian health authorities announced on April 19 that 43 Malaysian students who had returned from the boarding school had tested positive for COVID-19.

The Malaysian embassy in Jakarta has said it will repatriate the remaining Malaysian students in Temboro village. 

Read also: East Java boarding school undergoes rapid COVID-19 testing after Malaysia reports imported cases

Muchlissun said the task force performed rapid testing on 305 students and that 31 of them had tested positive. In order to obtain more reliable results, the task force then took swab samples for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which confirmed that 16 of the students had the virus.  

The foreign students, aged 16 to 28, are not able to leave Magetan yet, as they need to recover from the virus.

The remaining seven students are from Lampung; Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara; Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi; Makasar, South Sulawesi; Temanggung, Central Java, and two are from Magetan itself. 

Muchlissun said surveillance for COVID-19 was still underway for Al Fatah students amid the quarantine and that recent rapid testing had found another eight students positive for COVID-19. He declined to give further details on the students.

Al Fatah boarding school has more than 22,000 students, 2,000 of whom are foreigners, mostly from Southeast Asian countries. 

Al Fatah is also known as the local 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. The group has held events in MalaysiaIndia and South Sulawesi that have been linked to several COVID-19 cases in the areas.

The provincial task force has said Al Fatah Islamic boarding school constitutes a severe red zone as it is a new transmission cluster in Magetan. Temboro village has been under strict quarantine since last week to contain the virus.

The secretary of the East Java provincial administration, Heru Tjahjono, said on Saturday that 164 students from Al Fatah would be repatriated to Malaysia on Monday. 

"We will help transport them from Magetan to Juanda Airport in Surabaya," he said. 

Magetan regency is the now fourth-hardest-hit region in East Java, after Surabaya, Sidoarjo and Lamongan.

East Java has the third-most cases of any province in Indonesia with 785 confirmed cases and 87 fatalities as of Sunday.