Medical officers spray Indonesian nationals with antiseptic as they arrive from Wuhan, before transferring them to the Natuna Islands military base to be quarantined - Photo by Batik Air

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – Indonesian government flew 243 its citizens from China’s Hubei province on Sunday (02/02) and placed them under quarantine at a military base on the sparsely populated Natuna Besar island northwest of Borneo. A total of 285 people, including the flight crew and the team involved in the evacuation, will have to stay there for 14 days under observation.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said the 243 Indonesians previously trapped in the locked-down city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus, and other cities in Hubei province are in good health.

“All have been declared healthy according to World Health Organization standards. Indonesian health minister and staff will open the office in Natuna and updates the progress,” Marsudi said after a limited meeting with President Joko Widodo.

The government will also temporarily stop flights to and from mainland China, excluding Hong Kong and Macau, starting Wednesday until the deadline to be determined later. It will immediately bar visitors who have been in China for 14 days from entering or transiting, the minister said.

Furthermore, the policy of granting visa-free and on-arrival visa facilities for Chinese nationals residing in mainland China is temporarily suspended. The government also asks Indonesian citizens to temporarily not travel to mainland China.

All Indonesian airlines were asked to postpone all flight plans to and from all destinations in China until the deadline to be determined later. Likewise, foreign airlines flying from China to Indonesia, including transit flights from China, were asked to suspend flights temporarily to Indonesia, said transportation minister Budi Karya Sumadi. Currently, five national airlines operating flights to China include Garuda Indonesia, Citilink, Batik Air, Lion Air, and Sriwijaya Air.

There have not been any confirmed cases of coronavirus in Indonesia, but the neighboring Philippines on Sunday reported the first death from the virus outside China. While the number of total infections in China’s coronavirus outbreak has passed 17,200 nationwide with 2,829 new cases confirmed, the National Health Commission said on Monday.

In its daily update, the commission said there had been 57 new deaths from the virus – all in hardest-hit Hubei province except one, bringing the national toll to 361, exceeding the country’s death toll from the 2002-03 Sars outbreak, which killed 349 people in mainland China.

In its daily update, figures from the health commission in Hubei, which have been hit hardest by the virus, also showed a sharp increase in confirmed infections with 2,103 new cases, bringing the death tolls in the province to 350, the local health commission said on Monday. That puts the national total over 17,200, the National Health Commission said.

The new virus is believed to have emerged in December from a market that sold wild game in the Hubei provincial capital Wuhan. Hubei has been under virtual quarantine, with roads sealed off and public transport shut down. Elsewhere, China has placed growing restrictions on travel and business. The province extended its Lunar New Year holiday break to Feb 13 in a bid to contain the outbreak.

The epidemic has ballooned into a global health emergency, with cases reported in more than 20 countries. The G-7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, all of which have confirmed cases of the virus – will discuss a joint response to the outbreak, AP reported.

Written by Lexy Nantu, Email: lexy@theinsiderstories.com