Coronavirus: Singapore not 'epicentre' despite rise in cases, says Indonesia health minister

Indonesia's Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto speaking to journalists at Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in Jakarta, on Feb 15, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA - Indonesian Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto said on Monday (Feb 17) that Singapore is not the "epicentre" of the coronavirus outbreak despite the rise in the number of confirmed cases in the Republic.

He also said the immigration and health authorities of the two countries are working together to prevent infected patients from entering Indonesia.

"We are working with the Singapore (health) ministry as well as the immigration. They always warn us whenever anyone is infected," he told reporters. "Please don't be confused. Singapore is not the epicentre, but mainland China is, as declared by the World Health Organization."

He added: "We will always check (with Singapore authorities). No country will deliberately let any of its sick citizens enter another country. That's because of our good relationship and friendship."

Mr Terawan made the statement in response to queries by the media on whether Indonesia would enhance its monitoring of inbound travellers from Singapore, which has confirmed 75 cases of infected patients as of Sunday.

The coronavirus has so far infected more than 71,000 people worldwide and the death toll has reached more than 1,700. China, where the virus originated, has accounted for most of the infections as well as fatalities.

Indonesia has so far tested 104 cases, but 102 came back negative with another two still pending, according to figures from the Health Ministry.

Mr Terawan underlined that Indonesia took a "rational" attitude on tackling the Covid-19 outbreak by selectively checking people as it was more efficient.

"Those we check must show symptoms, and we'll check their travel history, their contacts," he said.

Speaking at the same press conference, Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy refuted concerns over Indonesia's capability to detect Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.

He said Indonesia has collaborated with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide the reagent used to detect the virus.

"That is still a reliable reagent, so no one should doubt its capability, and we have it in sufficient amount if needed later," he said.

He added that hospitals across the archipelago were ready to tackle patients in the event of a confirmed case.

On Saturday, Indonesian authorities sent 238 evacuees from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak, including one foreigner married to an Indonesian, to their respective hometowns across the archipelago. All were declared to be healthy after spending 14 days quarantined in the Natuna Islands in Riau Islands province.

Indonesian authorities are also working closely with their Japanese counterparts on the health status of 78 Indonesian nationals working on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. They are expected to return home if cleared by Japanese health authorities. As many as 355 people on the vessel have tested positive for the virus. The Diamond Princess has been under quarantine off the port of Yokohama, in Japan, for weeks.

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