Indonesia Announces First Cases of COVID-19

Ronna Nirmala and Tia Asmara
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200302_ID_Coronavirus_1000.jpg Women wear face masks near an information banner on the new coronavirus at a train station in Jakarta, March 2, 2020.

A woman and her mother in Indonesia have tested positive for the new coronavirus, making them the country’s first confirmed cases of the disease, President Joko “Jokowi" Widodo announced Monday at a news conference with the nation’s top health official.

The 31-year-old woman tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, after contact with a Japanese citizen in Jakarta in mid-February, Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto said. She was believed to have then transmitted the disease to her mother.

"This morning I received information from the health minister that a mother and her daughter have tested positive for the coronavirus," Jokowi told reporters.

Before Monday, officials in the most populous nation in Southeast Asia had insisted that it had no cases of the coronavirus, although its immediate neighbors had detected multiple cases, and other countries had reported infections from people who had recently traveled to Indonesia.

The patients from Depok on the outskirts of Jakarta were being treated in isolation at the Sulianti Saroso Infectious Diseases Hospital in the capital and were in stable condition, Terawan said.

The daughter was believed to have contracted the disease after meeting a Japanese woman at a night spot in Jakarta, he said.

The minister said the Japanese woman had tested positive for the virus in Malaysia on Feb. 28 and relayed the news to the Indonesian woman.

The woman and her mother sought care at a hospital in Depok on Feb. 26, more than a week after they began showing symptoms of the virus, Terawan said.

The Health Ministry is monitoring 48 people in Depok who are suspected of having come into contact with the two patients, said its directorate general for disease prevention and control, Anung Sugihantono, adding that they all appeared to be in good health.

Anung told reporters that laboratory tests were required for people who had close contact with the woman and her mother.

Terawan said his ministry had ordered dozens of workers at the first hospital where the women were treated to isolate themselves at home after making contact with the two patients.

"Contact must be traced from the moment they left the house, anyone they spoke to," he said.

The Ministry of Health has prepared 100 hospitals across 32 of the country’s 34 provinces to care for patients with the coronavirus.

International standard

Jokowi said Indonesia was ready to deal with an outbreak of the coronavirus, saying that the country’s health care was up to international standards, despite concerns expressed by some that the country might be ill-prepared.

"We also have the budget. If we are not serious about tackling this, it’s going to be very dangerous because this is a disease we need to watch out for," said Jokowi.

Indonesians on social media have criticized the government for what they perceived as official preoccupation with the economic consequences of the virus instead of informing the public about how to deal with an outbreak.

A member of the Indonesian Public Health Expert Association (IAKMI), Hermawan Saputra, said it was likely that some cases of the coronavirus in the country had not been detected.

"It’s possible that some people were infected and died. But, because they did not receive treatment and their families refused autopsies, they were not recorded," Hermawan said.

Indonesia is considered vulnerable due to its 10 international airports and direct flights to Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei Province, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

Singapore’s Ministry of Health announced Sunday that two citizens and a Myanmar national living in the city-state had tested positive for the coronavirus after visiting Batam, an Indonesian island nearby, from Feb. 21-23.

Authorities in Batam were monitoring 15 residents known to have come into contact with the Singaporeans.

The global death toll from the coronavirus surpassed 3,000 on Monday, with the number of people infected reaching more than 89,000.

The vast majority of cases and deaths are in China, but the number of cases and fatalities connected to COVID-19 outside China have surged in three countries – Iran, Italy, and South Korea.

“In the last 24 hours there were almost 9 times more cases reported outside China than inside China,” the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told reporters at a media briefing in Geneva.

On Sunday, Thailand reported its first death from the virus, a 35-year-old man who worked as a subcontractor for Thai duty-free giant King Power.

Meanwhile, 69 Indonesian crew members from the coronavirus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in the Japanese city of Yokohama arrived home Sunday and started a 28-day quarantine period on an uninhabited island off Jakarta Bay, Human Development Minister Muhadjir Effendy told reporters over the weekend.

Eight other Indonesian workers on the ship were being treated in Japan after testing positive for the virus, he said.

The arrival of the 69 followed the return of 188 Indonesian crew members from the Hong Kong-based World Dream cruise ship on Friday. The World Dream crew would be quarantined for 14 days in a separate block on the same island, officials said.


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