The Jakarta Post
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi engaged with her Malaysian counterpart Hishammuddin Hussein through a video conference on Friday, discussing the need for the two neighboring countries to maintain close collaboration amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“We agreed on the importance of strong cooperation between the two countries, both bilaterally and within the framework of ASEAN, in addressing COVID 19,” Retno wrote in her Twitter account @Menlu_RI after the virtual meeting.
Had a video call with Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin Hussein @HishammuddinH2O, Foreign Minister of Malaysia (20/03). We agreed on the importance of strong cooperation between the two countries, both bilaterally and in the framework of ASEAN, in addressing COVID 19. pic.twitter.com/gUwbeXj9so— Menteri Luar Negeri Republik Indonesia (@Menlu_RI) March 20, 2020
Meanwhile, the Malaysian foreign minister said that the discussions he had with Retno during their 45-minute video conference comprised various issues, including the postponement of the inaugural visit of Malaysia's new Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to Indonesia, which was initially scheduled for the end of March.
"Furthermore, both Ibu Retno and I deliberated over the status of the ASEAN Summit, which is due in Vietnam next month," Hishammuddin wrote in a Facebook post.
“The majority of our video conference, however, focused on COVID-19 and we both shared our nation’s experience in handling our stranded citizens abroad due to travel restrictions imposed by countries in which they were,” he added.
Hishamuddin said he and Retno realized that "a lot depends on Indonesia’s and Malaysia’s bilateral relations with those countries to assist the stranded citizens" and that for the time being, they had agreed to cooperate in engaging nations together so that the two Southeast Asian countries could assist their respective stranded citizens.
In addition, the two ministers also focused on both Malaysians and Indonesians who participated in tabligh (Islamic mass gathering) and how they could manage the outbreak of COVID-19 transmissions from these events, Hishammuddin wrote.
He said he looked forward to closer cooperation between the two countries as “Malaysia and Indonesia have long-standing ties that go beyond mere bilateral relations”.
Indonesia and Malaysia are currently working flat out – along with hundreds of other countries in the world -- in containing the coronavirus outbreak in their respective territories.
Malaysia has experienced a spike in coronavirus infections following a tabligh event attended by more than 16,000 participants from countries in Southeast Asia, prompting authorities to impose a partial lockdown in view of the significant surge of cases.
The country reported a total of 1,030 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Friday -- the highest number of infections in Southeast Asia, Reuters reported.
Meanwhile, Indonesia has the highest death toll from the novel coronavirus among its ASEAN peers with 32 fatalities to date. At least 369 people were infected in the archipelago as of Friday.
The Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur estimated on Tuesday that some 700,000 Indonesians were affected by Malaysia’s lockdown, but that number could be higher.
In her tweet, Retno also said that she had conveyed her request to Hishammudin to pay attention to the Indonesian citizens affected by the lockdown.
According to real-time data from Johns Hopkins University, more than 274,000 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed worldwide, with 11,375 deaths as of Saturday.
More than 88,000 patients have recovered from the virus that has spread to around 160 countries, with Italy, Iran and Spain being the countries with the highest numbers of fatalities from COVID-19 outside China, where the novel coronavirus first emerged.