Coronavirus: WHO urges Indonesia to scale up emergency response; Transportation Minister infected

Indonesian President Joko Widodo inspecting Jakarta's international airport in Tangerang on March 13, 2020.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo inspecting Jakarta's international airport in Tangerang on March 13, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged Indonesia to scale up response mechanisms, including declaring a national emergency, to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which has seen five deaths and 96 confirmed cases in the country.

The latest death was among the 27 new confirmed cases announced on Saturday (March 14). The government announced 35 new cases on Friday.

In a televised broadcast late on Saturday (March 14), State Secretary Pratikno announced that Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi has been infected with Covid-19. He has been isolated and is undergoing treatment at a Jakarta hospital, and his condition is improving, he added.

In a March 10 letter from WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom-Ghebreyesus to President Joko Widodo seen by The Straits Times, the global health agency said every country needed to take robust measures designed to slow transmission and contain its spread.

“Unfortunately, we have seen undetected or under detected cases at the early stages of the outbreak result in significant increases in cases and deaths in some countries”, it added, without naming any country.

Countries with large populations and varying health system capacities across the nation need to focus on case detection and laboratory testing capabilities as early confirmation is a “critical factor” in containing an outbreak to first few cases and clusters, Dr Tedros said in the letter.

Presidential spokesman Fadjroel Rachman said on Saturday that Mr Joko spoke on the phone with Dr Tedros on March 13 and promptly carried out follow-up actions, including forming a national task force to expedite efforts to curb the spread of the Covid-19.

Protocols to handle the crisis for the national government in Jakarta and the regional governments across its 34 provinces have also been established.

“We are now treating this as an unnatural national disaster,” Mr Achmad Yurianto, a spokesman for the Covid-19 task force, told reporters on Saturday, though he did not answer when asked if such a status amounts to a national emergency for coronavirus.

Mr Doni Monardo, head of both Indonesia’s disaster management agency and the Covid-19 task force, said all resources are now being gathered – from intelligence officers to medical doctors’ association, academics to civil society groups – to help to fight the spread, and that facilities to test for Covid-19 will be expanded.


The Health Minister will issue a regulation that will cut red tape for regional leaders across Indonesian provinces to withdraw funds to use to fight Covid-19, he added.

Mr Achmad said: “We will mobilise all components in the society to help with contact tracing. Contact tracing is key to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan said on Saturday that the capital will close all schools for at least two weeks from Monday and postpone national exams slated for next week.

“We have to apply social-distancing measures. Keep mobility as little as possible. The aim is to curb the spread among individuals who do not show symptoms,” Mr Anies said.