Coronavirus: Indonesian President Jokowi and ministers to undergo testing after colleague is infected

Indonesian President Joko Widodo led a Cabinet meeting last Wednesday which was attended by a minister who was later found to be suffering from Covid-19.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo led a Cabinet meeting last Wednesday which was attended by a minister who was later found to be suffering from Covid-19.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Sunday (March 15) that he and his ministers will be tested for the coronavirus, a day after Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi was confirmed to have been infected.

The country confirmed 21 new positive cases, bringing the total number to 117 as of Sunday. The number of fatalities stand at five people.

Mr Budi has had a busy few weeks, and had joined a Cabinet meeting on March 11 led by President Joko at the presidential palace. Photos of that meeting, which quickly went viral on social media, show Mr Budi was the fifth person to the left of Mr Joko in the roundtable meeting. 

Those sitting closest to Mr Budi were Agrarian and Spatial Planning Minister Sofyan Djalil, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati and armed forces commander, Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto.

It is unclear if the ministers will be placed under a 14-day quarantine, a standard requirement for close contacts of infected patients.

On March 11, Mr Budi also met Dutch Infrastructure and Water Management Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen-Wijbenga and signed agreements to help attract companies from the Netherlands to invest in Indonesia’s transportation infrastructure.

In late February, Mr Budi had visited the offices of Indonesian media, attended a parliamentary hearing, flew to South Sulawesi province and met local government and community leaders, and attended at least two conferences in Jakarta hotels.

Mr Budi was also closely involved in the missions to bring home Indonesians stranded on cruise ships, including 70 people from the Diamond Princess cruise ship who were welcomed by the minister on March 2 when they arrived in Indonesia. The cruise ship was held off Japan last month, with more than 700 people testing positive for the coronavirus. An evacuated Indonesian who later tested positive has recovered.

In a televised broadcast on Saturday night, State Secretary Pratikno announced that Mr Budi has been infected with Covid-19, adding that his condition was improving. No information was given on how Mr Budi might have contracted the coronavirus.

On Sunday, Mr Joko called on local governments to help contain the spread of the virus in their respective regions, and recommended that government officials and students operate from home. He also assured the people that Indonesia would continue to have ample food supply. 

“One of our ministers has tested positive for Covid-19. Anticipative measures have been taken and I am confident that all the ministers will continue to work full time as usual,” Mr Joko said. “The past days, the ministers have been working harder, although some of them are working via online, to deal with health issues and to mitigate economic impacts from the Covid-19.” 

Local authorities have also begun contact tracing of infected Indonesians being treated in Singapore, after Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry received information from Singapore authorities on the patients with the coronavirus.

“We have received the information from the (Indonesian) Foreign Ministry,” the Jakarta Post reported citing Mr Achmad Yurianto, the Health Ministry’s disease control and prevention director-general.


Indonesian authorities have been under pressure to act swiftly in carrying out contact tracing of citizens who have tested positive.

West Java governor Ridwan Kamil told reporters on Sunday that a male patient who died in Cianjur regency and was declared as testing negative for the coronavirus turned out to be positive in the latest test. The man had infected his wife and his child, the governor added.

Several cities including Jakarta, Bandung and Surabaya have decided to close all schools ranging from seven to 14 days. The Health Ministry’s Mr Achmad said local authorities must monitor and make sure students study at home and parents do not treat it as a holiday and go on vacation. 

“Be reminded the very reason of temporarily closing schools is to curb the spread of coronavirus,” Mr Achmad told MetroTV.