Coronavirus pandemic

Jakarta moves over 200 worshippers from mosque to quarantine site

Indonesian armed forces were progressively moving more than 200 Muslim worshippers - half of them foreigners - from a mosque in West Jakarta to the country's largest quarantine centre, Wisma Atlet in North Jakarta, in a pre-emptive move to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The Muslim worshippers had been in close contact during Friday prayers at Jami mosque on March 20 with three fellow Muslims who later tested positive for the coronavirus.

The authorities began moving the group of more than 200 Muslims last Saturday night. The group had been in isolation at the West Jakarta mosque since last Thursday.

As of 4pm Jakarta time (5pm Singapore time) yesterday, there were still Muslim worshippers at the mosque awaiting evacuation, Jakarta-based Elshinta Radio reported.

Comprising 106 Indonesian nationals and 102 foreigners, they were part of a group that had travelled to attend a large Muslim Tabligh gathering, state news agency Antara reported, citing the chief of the Jakarta military command, Brigadier-General M. Saleh, last Saturday.

Tabligh is formally known as Tablighi Jama'at, a global movement of evangelical Muslims that promotes proselytising, known as dakwah.

On March 18, more than 8,000 Tabligh members arrived in Gowa in the Indonesian province of South Sulawesi to attend the gathering, which had been slated to take place the following day.

More than 400 of them were from the region and countries as far away as Saudi Arabia, and among the largest groups of foreign Muslims were those from Thailand, Malaysia and Pakistan. None of them was from Singapore, according to the authorities.

The gathering was cancelled at the last minute following appeals from the authorities amid fears over the spread of the coronavirus. The pilgrims then made their way home via the airport and seaports in Makassar on March 19, through Jakarta.

Three of the Muslims - one from North Sumatra and two from Aceh province - who joined the Friday prayers at Jami mosque in West Jakarta on March 20 tested positive for the virus and were rushed to the Wisma Atlet quarantine centre earlier, Antara reported without giving a date.

SOME NOT SELF-ISOLATING

The continued increase in the number of confirmed cases signals there are those who are infected who have not self-isolated.

MR ACHMAD YURIANTO, Indonesia's official spokesman on the pandemic.

Indonesia has appealed to its citizens to avoid crowds and to work, study and pray at home.

On March 19, Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan appealed to Muslims to cancel Friday prayers for two weeks but many mosques disregarded the appeal.

The world's fourth-most populous country announced its first two cases of coronavirus infections on March 2, and the number has risen to 1,285 as of yesterday, an increase of 130 from Saturday. Its Covid-19 fatalities also rose by 12 to 114, the highest in South-east Asia. Sixty-four patients have recovered.

At a regular briefing yesterday, the official spokesman on the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Achmad Yurianto, said: "The continued increase in the number of confirmed cases signals there are those who are infected who have not self-isolated."

But he acknowledged that there has been improved compliance among Indonesians in practising social distancing, expressing his appreciation.

Meanwhile, Jakarta continued to deploy drones and trucks to spray disinfectant across parts of the capital yesterday. The spraying teams were covering 11 points across Jakarta, working from 7am to 3pm local time.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2020, with the headline 'Jakarta moves over 200 worshippers from mosque to quarantine site'. Print Edition | Subscribe