BNPB's Zaherman Muabesi, left, and the Foreign Affairs Ministry's Yudha Nugraha explain to the press on Wednesday the steps the government is taking to prevent the coronavirus from spreading to Indonesia. (JG Photo/Diana Mariska)

Indonesia Sends Face Masks, Money to Citizens Trapped by Coronavirus Outbreak in China


JANUARY 29, 2020

Jakarta. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency, or BNPB, has provided 10,000 N95 masks – said to be able to filter 95 percent of particulate in the air – to be sent to Indonesian citizens in China to help protect them from the coronavirus outbreak. 

Meanwhile, the Air Force has put three aircraft on standby as Indonesian diplomats continue to lobby the Chinese government to allow the evacuation of Indonesians from cities in China on lockdown from the outbreak.   

The Indonesian ambassador to China, Djauhari Oratmangun, had asked the government to send the N95 masks, now in short supply in China, on Jan. 27, the Foreign Affairs Ministry's spokesman, Teuku Faizasyah, said in Jakarta in Wednesday.

Teuku said the Indonesian government will try to ensure all Indonesians in China's Hubei province – where the outbreak is at its most severe – receive enough supplies before they can be evacuated. 

"All our citizens [in China] have received logistical assistance, including face masks," Teuku said.

Yudha Nugraha, the director of citizen protection and legal assistance at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, said the government will also give financial assistance to Indonesians in China so they can buy daily supplies, especially since prices of food have risen in cities severely affected by the outbreak, especially its epicenter in Wuhan. 

"Stores are still open, but prices have started to rise. Our embassy has already provided Rp 133,280,000 ($9,800) in financial assistance. We have nine coordinators working in Hubei to distribute it," Yudha said.

The money is going to be distributed in cities locked down by the Chinese government, including Wuhan, Jingzhou, Xianyang, Xianing, Ensi and Huangshi.

Teuku said the Chinese government has been more than helpful in making sure the Indonesian citizens receive all the information and assistance they need to help protect themselves from the coronavirus. 

"Local government staff have been visiting our students in their dormitories to check on their health," Teuku said.

Evacuation Plan

The spokesman said the government is still finalizing the details of its evacuation plan. He also admitted that since the Indonesian citizens live in different parts of the Hubei province, the operation is going to be a complex one and may take some time. 

"There are 243 Indonesians in Hubei, 100 of them in Wuhan, the rest spread all over the province. The distance [between the cities] is quite far, so we have to plan [the evacuation] very carefully," he said.

Ambassador Djauhari has established close contact with the Chinese government to make sure the evacuation runs smoothly, even though there is no information yet on when it will begin.

The Indonesian government is also in close communication with Chinese government representatives in Jakarta to discuss the evacuation plan.

Improved Screening at Indonesian Airports

The Transportation Ministry has also taken steps to prevent the coronavirus outbreak from reaching Indonesia.

The ministry's directorate general of aviation held a meeting on Wednesday with heads of airport authorities, airport operators, aviation operators and the directorate general of disease prevention and control at the Health Ministry to discuss what needs to be done to stop the coronavirus from entering Indonesia. 

The ministry's director of aviation security Muhammad Alwi said all the above institutions must work together to prevent the coronavirus from spreading into the country.

Airport officials are expected to bear the brunt of the task, including making sure every arriving passenger get their body temperature checked by airport health officials and reporting passengers suspected to have been exposed to the virus.

Thermal scanners and isolation rooms have been set up at all international airports to identify passengers who might be suffering from the pneumonia-like infection and to quarantine them temporarily. 

Five airlines operate flights between seven cities in Indonesia and 18 cities in China.

So far, the Indonesian government has only banned flights to and from Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus is thought to have initially spread from.