Coronavirus: Indonesia bans entry and transit of foreigners from worst-stricken regions in Iran, Italy and South Korea

In a photo taken on Feb 23, 2020, an Indonesian health official takes temperature readings of arriving passengers amid concerns of the coronavirus outbreak at the Jakarta international Airport. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - Indonesia will ban the entry and transit of foreign visitors coming from the 10 regions hardest hit by the coronavirus in Iran, Italy and South Korea from Sunday (March 8).

But travellers departing from any other places in the three countries will be allowed entry if they produce a health certificate issued by the countries' respective health authorities that declare the travellers as healthy, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said on Thursday (March 5). The health certificate should be presented to airliners during check-in.

The temporary ban will affect foreigners who have been in Teheran, Qom and Gilan in Iran, Lombardi, Veneto, Emilia Romagna, Marche and Piedmont in Italy, and Daegu and Gyeongsangbuk province in South Korea in the past 14 days.

"Based on the latest WHO (World Health Organization) report, there's a significant increase in Covid-19 cases outside China in three countries - Iran, Italy and South Korea. As a result, for the sake of all, Indonesia is issuing a new policy for travellers from these countries," Ms Retno said.

A similar prohibition was earlier imposed on visitors from mainland China, where the outbreak first emerged, to fight the spread of the epidemic to Indonesia.

Indonesians who had visited the three countries, especially the severely-hit areas, will also face an extra health examination upon arrival, Ms Retno said.

The coronavirus has infected more than 95,700 people globally and caused more than 3,200 deaths.

Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous nation of more than 260 million, has recorded two cases.

In light of the surge in the number of cases globally, Indonesia plans to build a new hospital to treat Covid-19 patients should infection numbers spike on home ground.

The health facility, to be built on Galang Island in the Riau Islands province with the help of the army, will be able to accommodate about 1,000 patients infected by the coronavirus, said Indonesian Military Commander Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto during his visit to the island on Wednesday (March 4).

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It will also have isolation rooms for around 50 people. He added that the hospital will comply with the health protocol from WHO.

Galang Island, located 50km from Hang Nadim International Airport in Batam, was once a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) camp for over 170,000 people seeking refuge from conflicts across South-east Asia, and was closed in 1996.

Some buildings and infrastructure remain until today, and these include a dilapidated hospital "on the brink of collapse", according to Chief Marshal Hadi.

Public Works and Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono, who also visited the island on Wednesday, said that the new hospital is expected to be ready within a month.

Separately, government spokesman on the Covid-19 situation Achmad Yurianto told reporters on Wednesday that the facility may also serve as a quarantine site for Indonesians who live overseas and may need evacuation when the outbreak worsens. He cited South Korea, where around 5,000 Indonesians live.

"We must anticipate that the countries may be locked down… We will find a place to accommodate them," he said.

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