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Jakarta Post

East Java delays repatriation of 38 Malaysian ‘santri’ who tested positive for COVID-19

  • Asip Hasani

    The Jakarta Post

Surabaya, East Java   /   Wed, April 29, 2020   /   01:46 pm
East Java delays repatriation of 38 Malaysian ‘santri’ who tested positive for COVID-19 A health official sprays disinfectant on the bags of a "santri" (student of Islamic boarding school) in Sidoarjo, East Java, on April 4. Forty-three Malaysian "santri" students tested positive for COVID-19 after returning home from an Islamic boarding school in Magetan, East Java. (Antara/Umarul Faruq/)

The Magetan regency administration in East Java suspended the repatriation of 38 Malaysian students of Al Fatah pesantren (Islamic boarding school) in Temboro village after they had tested positive for COVID-19.

The regency’s COVID-19 task force spokesperson, Saif Muchlissun, said 29 santri (students of an Islamic boarding school) tested positive during rapid testing on Monday, while the other nine tested positive during earlier polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing.

"The 29 Malaysian students have to stay here in the village because they have to wait for the PCR test results,” Saif told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

He added that the other nine Malaysian students confirmed for COVID-19 had to undergo medical treatment for 14 days at a nearby hospital.

Rapid testing for COVID-19 is faster and more affordable compared to the PCR, although it is less accurate as it only detects antibodies against the coronavirus in blood samples.

Read also: 'Severe red zone': East Java scrambles to contain COVID-19 spread at Islamic boarding school

Early last week, the task force traced santri who had been in contact with 43 students who had tested positive for COVID-19 in Malaysia upon returning from the Al-Fatah pesantren. Malaysian health authorities declared them a new COVID-19 cluster in the country on April 19.

The Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta had planned to repatriate more than 150 Malaysian students who initially wanted to stay and spend Ramadan in the village.

"Only 124 can leave Temboro as the others have tested positive for the disease,” Saif said, adding they had flown home from Juanda International Airport in Surabaya on Monday evening.

Apart from the Malaysians, a student from Thailand also tested positive for COVID-19.

Read also: Nearly 100 Malaysians who recently returned from Indonesia test positive for COVID-19

As of Monday, Magetan recorded 33 confirmed cases in the regency, 24 of which were linked to the Temboro pesantren. The East Java COVID-19 task force has declared the boarding school a “severe red zone” and put the village under quarantine last week.

Al Fatah pesantren houses more than 22,000 students, 2,000 of whom are foreigners, mostly from Southeast Asian countries.

The boarding school is also a base for an Islamic group known as Jamaah Tabligh, which has held events in Malaysia, India and South Sulawesi that have been linked to several COVID-19 cases in the respective regions. (kuk)