Wuhan virus: Indonesia sends plane to fetch 250 of its nationals stranded in Hubei

A Batik Air A330-300 Airbus left Indonesia's main international Soekarno-Hatta airport at 1pm local time on Feb 1, and will return to Hang Nadim international airport in Batam on Feb 2, 2020. ST PHOTO: WAHYUDI SOERIAATMADJA

TANGERANG, BANTEN PROVINCE - Indonesia sent a chartered plane on Saturday (Feb 1) to fetch 250 Indonesians stranded in cities in Hubei province, the epicentre of China's worsening coronavirus outbreak.

A Batik Air A330-300 Airbus left Indonesia's main Soekarno-Hatta international airport at 1pm local time and will return to Hang Nadim international airport in Batam on Sunday. As many as 247 adults and three children will be then transported to Natuna in the Riau Islands province where they will be temporarily housed at a military facility for about two weeks.

The Natuna Islands, in Riau Islands province, are located on Indonesia's northern maritime borders with the neighbouring countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia and China.

The team deployed to China will fetch Indonesian citizens whose health conditions have been checked and who are healthy, foreign minister Retno Marsudi told a media briefing before sending off the 42 personnel from the foreign affairs ministry, the health ministry and the military involved in the repatriation exercise.

"Before departure (leaving China), a series of health checks will once again be conducted to ensure they are healthy," Ms Retno said, pledging that health protocols would be observed during the trip, arrival and post-arrival. She added that these would also apply to the team and crew aboard the aircraft. Health Ministry director for infectious disease control and prevention Wiendra Waworuntu earlier said that any Indonesians returning back will be quarantined for at least 14 days on arrival to avoid contagion.

"Our citizens have started to head to Wuhan (to be evacuated) from places within Hubei province. The furthest point from Enshi City, which 542km from the airport in Wuhan. Other places are Jingzhou, 222km, Huangshi 100km, and Xianning 98km," Ms Retno added. Armed forces commander Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjono said the Indonesians and crew returning from China will be temporarily housed at the military base in Natuna, which is more than 5km away from any residential area.

"Natuna has a military base with a hospital with doctors from Navy, Air Force and Army. The isolation area, with a capacity of 300 people, is near the runway," Marshal Hadi told the same press briefing. Indonesia has no confirmed cases of the new coronavirus infection, which started in the Chinese city of Wuhan, allegedly at a seafood market selling live animals. As of Thursday, 16 people in Indonesia who had been placed under observation for flu-like symptoms tested negative for the coronavirus.

Another eight are still under observation.

The latest suspected case is an Indonesian tugboat worker who entered Batam by ferry from Singapore on Wednesday, health officials said. The patient's test results are expected to be made public by Monday.

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