Indonesia picks empty island for coronavirus quarantine

No coronavirus cases had been reported in Indonesia so far. (AFP)
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Updated 25 February 2020

Indonesia picks empty island for coronavirus quarantine

  • Cruise ship workers among first to be isolated

JAKARTA: The Indonesian government has picked an uninhabited island off Jakarta to isolate people believed to have been exposed to coronavirus.

A group of 188 Indonesians working as crew members of the World Dream cruise ship will be the first ones to be quarantined on Sebaru Kecil, which is part a cluster of islands off the northern coast of the capital.

Health Ministry official Achmad Yurianto said the hospital ship KRI Dr. Soeharso was on its way to repatriate the crew members through a ship-to-ship transfer in the Durian Strait in the Natuna Sea, Indonesia’s northern maritime border.

“The navy ship is scheduled to receive the crew members from the cruise ship on Wednesday morning, and they will be taken directly to Sebaru Kecil island,” he told Arab News. “They are expected to arrive before dawn on Thursday. They will be under observation there for 14 days.”

According to a Feb. 9 statement by Dream Cruises, which operates World Dream, Hong Kong health authorities declared all passengers and 1,814 crew members on board the ship to be coronavirus negative following a scare of potential infection from Chinese passengers on a previous cruise.

The Indonesian government's idea to choose one of the country’s 17,000 islands was floated earlier this month in the wake of protests from locals on Natuna Island, where more than 200 people were quarantined for two weeks after the authorities evacuated them from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the center of the outbreak, late January.

Yurianto said there were vacant facilities on the uninhabited island, such as a rehabilitation center for drug addicts, that could be used.

“The facilities were built in 2008 and we don’t use them anymore since we changed our approach to dealing with drug addiction, but the buildings and the facilities are still well maintained, so we can still use them.”

Yurianto said no coronavirus cases had been reported in Indonesia so far.

Indonesia is also preparing to repatriate 69 out of 78 citizens who worked as Diamond Princess cruise ship crew members. The vessel is docked in Yokohama, Japan. About 700 people on board tested positive with nine Indonesian crew members among them.

“We are still working out the details whether to fetch them by plane or by ship, we have not taken any decisions yet,” Yurianto said.

China’s ambassador to Indonesia, Xiao Qian, said during a foreign policy forum in Jakarta on Monday that the number of newly confirmed and suspected cases were both declining. “The number of patients cured and discharged from the hospital is growing fairly quickly,” he added.

The ambassador acknowledged that while the COVID-19 coronavirus deserved “our utmost attention and efforts,” there was no need to panic. Even the World Health Organization did not recommend countries to impose travel or trade restrictions on China, he said.

Indonesia and a few neighboring countries have barred Chinese travelers from entering.

Xiao said that more than 97 percent of confirmed cases were within China and those outside the country only accounted for 2.6 percent.

“It proves the epidemic has been confined within China,” he said.

‘I feel nothing’: virus-stricken Wuhan buries its dead

Updated 1 min 47 sec ago

‘I feel nothing’: virus-stricken Wuhan buries its dead

  • Wuhan’s gradual re-opening in recent days has offered the first chance in weeks for the dead to be buried
  • After citizens of Wuhan and the rest of Hubei province spent more than two months confined at home, life is slowly inching back to normality

WUHAN, China: As China’s coronavirus epicenter Wuhan awakens from its long nightmare, formerly locked-down citizens are beginning to reemerge, but for many, their first outdoor act in more than two months is grim: burying loved ones.
At the Biandanshan Cemetery, downcast groups of masked residents filed quietly past hazmat-suit-wearing security personnel and police on Tuesday to lay friends and relatives to rest under a leaden sky, a scene repeated in recent days at Wuhan’s graveyards.
Whether from coronavirus or other causes of death, Wuhan’s gradual re-opening in recent days has offered the first chance in weeks for the dead to be buried, and for the bereft to vent over what one called a “hellish” experience for the city.
At Biandanshan, authorities mindful of infection risks funnelled groups into the hillside facility in lines separated by chest-high yellow traffic dividers, checking mourners’ temperatures and spraying them with disinfectant as they entered.
Some bore boxes swaddled in red, gold or black fabrics and containing cremated remains.
Grim-faced, many declined to speak to journalists, but one woman arriving for a family member’s burial expressed numbness.
“I don’t feel anything,” she said blankly.
Her relative had died of a stroke.
She gave no further details, but many of Wuhan’s 11 million residents have complained online of uninfected loved ones dying from other causes due to a lack of medical care during the epidemic, which overwhelmed the city’s hospitals.
One man with a box of ashes said he was a community worker tasked with burying another man who “had no family left.”
He said no more before entering the cemetery.
As small groups gathered quietly around gravesites on the hillside, a man draped in a blue plastic protective poncho stood silently near the cemetery entrance, holding a photo portrait of a woman who had died.
After citizens of Wuhan and the rest of Hubei province spent more than two months confined at home, life is slowly inching back to normality, though many restrictions on movement and public gatherings remain.
The scenes at cemeteries and funeral homes showed that one of the many things put on hold by the crisis were burials.
Relieving that pressure is one of the first things authorities have done, organizing a system in which families are notified that cremated remains are ready to be picked up, according to posts online by many next of kin.
Surviving family members are escorted to graves by government-assigned minders who were dispatched, authorities say, to provide transportation since much of the city’s transport remains shut down.
Citing epidemic-control reasons, authorities have also essentially banned observances associated with next weekend’s Tomb-Sweeping Festival, an annual tradition in which families honor ancestors by cleaning their graves.
The new regimented burial process, which allows only limited numbers of mourners into cemeteries for each funeral, did not sit well with some already angry over their loss.
A 52-year-old man who gave only his surname, Zhang, told AFP he believes his elderly father was infected while in hospital for a broken leg. His father died of coronavirus.
Zhang refused to be accompanied to the graveyard by minders.
“It’s my family business and I don’t want outsiders involved,” he said.
One woman who has written in online posts that her husband died of the virus — leaving her to raise their daughter alone — echoed the comments of other Wuhan residents who have expressed anguish at having to wait so long for burials.
Lamenting a “hellish period in Wuhan,” she finally deposited his ashes at a funeral home last week.
“My poor husband can finally rest,” she wrote, “and no longer needs to wander.”