Jakarta (ANTARA) - Garuda Indonesia suspended its to-and-fro flights for Mainland China since early Wednesday at 00:00 a.m. local time to support the Indonesian government's endeavors to halt the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

The decision was also made by the Indonesian national flag carrier following the World Health Organization's (WHO's) recent declaration on Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

The suspension was part of Garuda Indonesia's serious attention to precautionary measures being taken to prevent the spread of the deadly virus, the airline's president director, Irfan Setiaputra, noted in a press statement that ANTARA received here on Sunday.

Garuda Indonesia prioritizes the safety of aviation as well as passengers and crew members, he affirmed, adding that the suspension was made effective for the flight routes to and from the Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Zhengzhou, and Xi'an.

Currently, the airline serves 30 scheduled flights to and from Mainland China in a week, while its flights to and from Hong Kong remain served under the strict surveillance of related authorities, Setiaputra stated.

Garuda Indonesia will continue to monitor the current situation and provide latest information on its operational flights to its potential passengers. It will also apply a flexible policy on the reschedule and reroute mechanism in connection with the flights to and from China.

Garuda has suggested its potential passengers to regularly check its flight schedules, especially those on cities vulnerable to the spread of coronavirus, on its official website and social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook, he stated.

On Sunday, President Joko Widodo held a limited meeting at the Halim Perdana Kusuma Air Force Base in East Jakarta with several cabinet ministers as well as National Police and National Military chiefs following the evacuation of 238 Indonesians and five members of an advance team from China's Hubei Province.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi remarked during a press conference following the meeting that the Indonesian government will have placed a temporary ban on flights to and from Mainland China since 00.00 a.m. local time on Wednesday.

All visitors, coming from Mainland China and having lived there for 14 days, were also temporarily banned from entering or making a transit in Indonesia, she noted.

In the interim, the government has also put a stop to the visa-free policy and issuance of visa on arrival for Chinese nationals residing in mainland China. Indonesian nationals are urged to not travel to Mainland China.

The limited meeting was held after the government airlifted 243 Indonesian nationals, including five members of an advance team, from Wuhan, the epicenter of the deadly novel coronavirus outbreak.

The new coronavirus has killed at least 304 people in China, and a 44-year-old Wuhan resident, who received medical treatment in the Philippines, according to the New York Times.

Chinese authorities declared the first case of coronavirus after a person, with pneumonia, was hospitalized in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, according to an official statement of the WHO.

Over the past weeks, people, symptomatic with pneumonia and reported travel history to Wuhan, had been identified at international airports.

Apart from infecting China, several other countries, including Thailand, Australia, Singapore, the United States, Japan, and Canada, have announced their confirmed coronavirus cases.

However, none of the confirmed cases were found in Indonesia. Apart from this reality, since the issuance of an official statement by the WHO on the coronavirus outbreak in China, the Indonesian government has remained on alert.

As part of its precautionary measures, thermal scanners have been installed at various airports around the archipelago for screening international passengers.

The thermal scanners are aimed at detecting any foreign tourists symptomatic with this novel coronavirus.

Several hospitals in Indonesia's big cities have also made necessary preparations to handle those with suspected coronavirus symptoms.
Related news: 238 Indonesians evacuated from Wuhan, seven remain in the city: govt
Related news: President holds meeting following evacuation of Indonesians from China


Translator: Juwita TR, Rahmad Nasution
Editor: Suharto
Copyright © ANTARA 2020