Coronavirus: Indonesia's Natuna regency closes schools as Wuhan evacuees put under quarantine

Indonesians evacuated from Wuhan board a military plane to Natuna, Riau Islands, shortly after landing at Hang Nadim Airport in Batam on Feb 2, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Natuna administration in Indonesia has closed schools for a two week period after the regency in Riau Islands was officially named a quarantine and observation zone for 243 evacuees from Wuhan and surrounding cities in Hubei province, China.

Natuna administration secretary Wan Siswandi said authorities had issued a circular on the school break, explaining that children were prone to exposure to the coronavirus that originated from Wuhan.

"At least with the break, children can stay at home to avoid possible infection," Mr Siswandi said on Sunday (Feb 2), as quoted by

The school break will last from Feb 3 to Feb 17 for all elementary and high schools located near Bunguran Island, where the evacuees, comprising 242 Indonesian citizens, including five Foreign Ministry officials, and one non-citizen, are being quarantined.

Mr Yulius Piliang, a Natuna resident confirmed the closure, saying that a copy of the circular had been given to all parents with children in schools around the island.

"We, as parents are very supportive of the steps taken by the local administration," said Mr Piliang.

Residents of Bunguran Island reportedly flocked to the port by the Lampa Strait on Sunday night to get off the island as soon as possible.

The people of Natuna have protested the decision to quarantine the repatriated Indonesian citizens in the regency.

The Indonesian Youth National Committee (KNPI) in Natuna demanded Jakarta transfer the evacuees to a navy vessel to be relocated offshore.

The committee also asked the government to provide healthcare, including psychiatrists, for the Natuna community.

It also asked the health minister to open an office in Natuna during the quarantine process to ensure the well-being of the Natuna community.

"At the moment, Natuna people are worried and anxious," committee chairman Haryadi said recently.

In response, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi confirmed Sunday that the health minister would open an office in Natuna during the observation period, Kompas reported.

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