Medical staffs spray disinfectant at Indonesian passengers arriving from the Chinese city of Wuhan at the Hang Nadim Airport on Batam Island. The plane carrying the evacuees lands on the island on Sunday morning. (Antara Photo)

Gov't Admits Natuna Islanders Not Quickly Informed About Quarantine Plan

BY :DIANA MARISKA

FEBRUARY 04, 2020

Jakarta. The government admitted on Tuesday that there was a delay in informing inhabitants of the Natuna Island about the plan to quarantine Indonesian evacuees from China on the island and that it might have caused resistance by the locals.

Natuna islanders staged protests upon learning from the media that the island would be used to quarantine 238 Indonesian citizens returning from from Wuhan for coronavirus concerns.

The evacuees arrived at the Natuna military base on Sunday and will undergo medical observation for at least two weeks. 

Chief security minister Mahfud M.D. said rapid development in government's handling of the crisis had caused a delay in notifying the islanders.

"The information arrived late because of the rapid development. Once the government received the green light to evacuate Indonesian citizens from Wuhan, we worked fast and decided to select Natuna," Mahfud told reporters after receiving a visit by Natuna district officials and community leaders at his office in Central Jakarta.

“Misunderstanding occurred because communication between the local government and residents in Natuna was delayed. It is understandable because the development [of the evacuation plan] escalated very quickly minute by minute,” Mahfud said.

The isolation camp inside the military facilities and hospital would not put inhabitants of the island in risk, Mahfud said, claiming that all the evacuees have been deemed healthy.

"They're all in good health, but we are obliged to follow standard procedures to place them in quarantine, where they will undergo [medical checkup] everyday for a certain period of time,” Mahfud said.

The government has set up several information posts on the island to allow residents to get accurate information about the quarantine program and coronavirus outbreak. 

“We encourage citizens in Natuna to frequently check information at those posts to protect them from provocative hoaxes because in fact there is nothing to worry about,” Mahfud said. 

The quarantine is directly put under supervision of the central government and Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto has a makeshift office on the island, about 1,145 kilometers from Jakarta, Mahfud said.

Natuna district head Abdul Hamid Rizal said lack of prior information about the two-week quarantine program had caused anxieties and fear among islanders. 

“People already learned about it from television and we didn't have a chance to inform them because [the news] came so quickly," Abdul said.  

He said he had dropped earlier decision to temporarily dismiss schools on coronavirus scare after clarification from the central government.

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