Jakarta. An Indonesian airplane has departed for Wuhan in China's Hubei province on Saturday, carrying a medical team and equipment for evacuating hundreds of Indonesian currently trapped in the coronavirus-affected region.
The dispatch would come as a relief to 245 Indonesians in the province who face a real prospect of getting contracted by the so-called 2019 nCoV novel coronavirus after spending more than a week under a lockdown put in place by the Chinese government to contain the outbreak.
Indonesia lobbied China to allow Indonesians to leave the area and get the green light on Friday. The Southeast Asian country also agreed to send medical supplies and equipment which currently under short supply in the province.
"We also carry the equipment needed by the Chinese. They need some equipment, including masks and surgical units," Retno said as quoted by Antara, as she dispatched the evacuation team at Soekarno Hatta International Airport.
So far, Japan, Germany, the United States, and the United Kingdom that had also evacuated their citizens from the area.
A total of 42 people, consisting of medical personnel, foreign affairs officials, aircrew and the Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel departed in the afternoon using an Airbus A330 chartered from Batik Air. The airline is a subsidiary of Lion Mentari Airlines, the operator of the country's largest budget airline Lion Air, with regular flights to Wuhan.
"We know that the operators that fly there are only Lion Air Group and Sriwijaya. Incidentally, only Lion has a large aircraft," Novie Riyanto, the director-general of civil aviation at the Transportation Ministry said on Saturday.
The government expected the airplane to return at Hang Nadim International Airport in Batam, bringing back the evacuation team with the 245 civilians and five foreign office personnel, who were dispatched in advance.
From the airport, they would transfer immediately to a medical facility at a military base in Natuna Island to spend several days of quarantine. Currently, the longest estimate for any symptoms to develop after being exposed to the novel coronavirus is 14 days.
"They will be observed there. The facility meets the health protocol requirements as a temporary transit place until the citizen is declared free from the virus and can meet their family," TNI Commander Chief Air Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto said.
The medical facility is close to Natuna airport, and 5-6 kilometers away from the nearest residential area and seaports, minimizing the risk of virus contagion.
Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto said the medical team would ensure that all Indonesian citizens coming back from Wuhan were healthy.
"A monitoring has been carried out in Wuhan to pick the healthy ones. In carrying out tasks while in transit, the evacuation team must also be healthy and disciplined in carrying out the health protocols," Terawan said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak as a global emergency on Thursday. A total of 11,374 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in 27 countries, according to the organization data on Friday. The virus claimed 259 lives so far, but 252 people also managed to recover.
Countries like Singapore, the US and Australia have banned all travelers coming from China from entering their borders.
Indonesia, which currently has no confirmed coronavirus case, only issued a travel warning for its citizen traveling to and from China. Several companies in the country, however, have advised their Chinese employees who went to China for celebrating Chinese New Year, to stay there until the outbreak subsides.