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Jakarta Post

Sampoerna factory closes after two COVID-19 deaths, authorities race to trace contacts

  • Asip Hasani

    The Jakarta Post

Surabaya, East Java   /   Thu, April 30, 2020   /   02:36 pm
Sampoerna factory closes after two COVID-19 deaths, authorities race to trace contacts A medical worker takes a blood sample on April 8, 2020 during the COVID-19 rapid testing program at the Communications and Information Ministry in Central Jakarta. (JP/Dhoni Setiawan)

Tobacco giant HM Sampoerna's factory in Rungkut district of Surabaya, East Java, has temporarily shut down following reports that two of its workers had died of COVID-19 and dozens of other workers had tested positive for the virus that causes the disease.

Curative management head Joni Wahyuhadi of the East Java COVID-19 task force said that its teams were scrambling to trace people who may have come in direct contact with the two workers at the factory, which had at least 500 workers.

Nine workers at the factory had been admitted to hospital as patients under surveillance (PDP) after showing symptoms of the disease, Joni said.

"The tracing is underway, [while] 163 swab samples are awaiting results from the PCR [polymerase chain reaction] tests," Joni told reporters on Wednesday evening.

The task force took blood samples from 323 factory workers for the COVID-19 rapid tests on Wednesday. Of these, 63 samples have returned positive test results for the coronavirus.

The task force was to take swab samples for more accurate PCR tests from these 63 workers, as well as some 100 others who had undergone the rapid tests, Joni said.

"[The 63 workers] are in good condition so far," he said, adding that the workers were now in quarantine at the factory complex.

Read also: An examination of Indonesia's death toll: Could it be higher?

The cigarette factory was identified as a new cluster of COVID-19 cases in Surabaya when the two workers' test results came back positive after their deaths on April 14.

The date or dates on which the task force received the two workers' test results has not been released.

Hundreds of the factory's workers were furloughed while the task force was tracing contacts, Joni added.

The discovery of the new cluster of community transmission at the factory has raised further concerns among the public, who are questioning the government's decision to allow factories to continue operating during the epidemic.

East Java province has the third largest number of COVID-19 cases in the country, with 872 confirmed cases and 95 deaths according to the government's official tally as of Wednesday afternoon. Surabaya, the provincial capital and the epicenter of the East Java outbreak, has recorded 394 confirmed cases and 55 deaths.

The province has 2,986 cases of PDP, a government classification for people presenting COVID-19 symptoms and has either traveled to an affected area (domestic or international) or has had direct contact with a confirmed case, and require further testing. Of these PDP cases, 260 have died, but it is unknown whether their deaths are related to COVID-19.

Surabaya and its satellite regencies of Sidoarjo and Gresik imposed the large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) on April 28 for an initial period of 14 days.