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Jakarta Post

North Sumatra to restrict access to Nias Island following surge in COVID-19 cases

  • Moch. Fiqih Prawira Adjie

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, September 16, 2020   /   09:15 am
North Sumatra to restrict access to Nias Island following surge in COVID-19 cases A surfer rides a wave at Sorake Beach, South Nias. (Shutterstock.com/Anges van der Logt)

The North Sumatra administration is planning to postpone all air and sea travel to and from Nias Island, closing down the famous tourist destination in the province following a recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

North Sumatra Governor Edy Rahmayadi conveyed the plan during Monday’s meeting with the North Sumatra Legislative Council (DPRD), adding that he would ask the Transportation Ministry to suspend all flights to the island as early as Thursday.

“The coronavirus was carried there by visitors to the island,” Edy said in a statement on Monday. “A month ago, there were no suspected COVID-19 cases on the island. Now, 90 people have tested positive.”

North Sumatra COVID-19 task force secretary Arsyad Lubis said the administration had prepared an agreement to close all air and sea travel to and from the island for 14 days. The agreement, he added, would need to be approved by all regional leaders, namely one mayor and four regents.

“We are taking this measure to make Nias Island a green zone [with low transmission risk] again,” Arsyad said. “Every region of the island needs to agree on their rights and obligations.”

Read also: North Sumatra University closes after lecturers test positive for COVID-19

The governor said he would ensure that prior to the lockdown, enough supplies were available for the locals during the isolation period. 

North Sumatra Health Agency head Alwi Mujahit said the administration would establish a laboratory capable of performing COVID-19 swab tests to speed up detection. 

“Nias Island is home to around 800,000 residents, and we aim to perform the swab test on 72 people per day,” he said.

However, he added that health authorities would use COVID-19 rapid tests for the moment as it would take around two weeks to build the lab.

Edy had asked Coordinating Maritime and Investment Minister Luhut B. Pandjaitan to permit the lockdown during Monday’s virtual meeting. The coordinating minister did not make his decision during the meeting but said he would talk more with the governor about the request.

Read also: In virus-stricken Indonesia, many can't afford to self-quarantine at home

Aside from isolating Nias Island, Edy also said the administration would limit access to some areas of Medan city, Binjai city and Deli Serdang regency to increase supervision of the health protocols.

“I will barricade the [Medan, Binjai and Deli Serdang] areas and raid nighttime activities [as well as those who] still ignore health protocols. Let's work together hand in hand to save our families and our beloved North Sumatra,” Edy said.