An official measures a passenger's body temperature at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta. (Photo courtesy of Angkasa Pura I)

Coronavirus Infection Just Like Common Cold: Health Minister

BY :TELLY NATHALIA

JANUARY 23, 2020

Jakarta. Indonesia is more than ready to handle an outbreak of a new type of coronavirus, officially called novel coronavirus, that causes symptoms similar to those of pneumonia and has already killed 17 people in Wuhan in central China. People infected with the virus will initially receive treatment similar to people suffering from a common cold, Health Minister Terawan Agus Purwanto told the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday.

The novel coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan, an industrial and transportation hub in China's Hubai province, at the end of December. Since then there have been 571 confirmed cases of the virus and 17 people have died.  

The virus has also spread to Hong Kong, Macao, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and the United States. There were three cases reported in Thailand, and one each in the other countries.

According to the Indonesian Embassy in Beijing, there are 428 Indonesians living in Wuhan, 90 percent of them students, and most are now in Indonesia for the school holiday.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said on Thursday there are also 1,280 Indonesian students in Beijing and another 840 in Shanghai.

"According to our embassy in Beijing, no Indonesian citizen has been affected by the coronavirus outbreak in China," Retno said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said in early January that the Chinese government had reported the discovery of a new strain of the coronavirus from the same family of viruses that gave rise to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

The scientific name for the novel coronavirus is nCov2019.

On Thursday morning, the Chinese government ordered a lock down in Wuhan – home for more than 10 million people – and canceled all travel in and out of the city to curb the spread of the disease, Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.

Indonesia on Alert

On Thursday afternoon, a Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI) building in Central Jakarta was closed temporarily when a Huawei employee started showing symptoms of a fever. 

"The man was rushed to the hospital but he was later declared to be suffering from a sore throat," BRI corporate secretary Hari Purnomo said.

Meanwhile, airport operator Angkasa Pura I has beefed up passenger screening at international arrival terminals, installing thermal scanners to detect passengers' body temperature.

"We are aware of the threat posed by the coronavirus. We're doing more stringent health checks on passengers coming in to prevent the virus from entering the country," Angkasa Pura I president director Faik Fahmi said in Jakarta.

Manado in North Sulawesi and Bali are the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists in Indonesia. Last year's data showed 1.19 million Chinese tourists came to Bali and 116,000 to Manado.

"Many Chinese tourists are expected to come to Bali and Manado during the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday [between Jan. 25 and Feb. 11]," Faik said.

Passengers with a body temperature above 38 degrees Celsius, showing flu symptoms and who have traveled to China recently will receive special treatment when they arrive in Indonesia, according to Faik.

"There's no danger. We're already on the alert. It's just like the common cold," Health Minister Terawan said about the coronavirus infection.

Additional reporting by Nur Yasmin

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