"Hence, take care of your health, keep exercising a bit, and just keep moving. Ensure sufficient nutritional intake to stay healthy. Do not forget to drink herbal medicine," Minister of Health Terawan Agus Putranto remarked while seeing them off on Natuna Island on February 2.
However, the controversy over choosing Natuna Island as a place to quarantine people has prompted Jakarta to consider building a special facility to handle contagious diseases as a precautionary measure against an outbreak in future.
When the government announced that the Indonesians from Wuhan would be quarantined on Natuna Islands, the locals had objected to the plan. They held protests and rejected their fellow Indonesians although none of them was infected by the virus.
The Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) has a military base called Raden Sadjad Air Base equipped with a hospital with a capacity of up to 300 beds and managed by the Army, the Air Force and the Navy.
Natuna residents were upset when they learned of the presence of the Indonesians apparently as they were not well informed about the observation process.
Hundreds of residents opted to leave Ranai, Natuna, and Riau Islands a day after the government quarantined the Indonesians.
To make thing worse, the Natuna district administration issued circulars asking schools to close from February 3 to 17, prompting residents to return to their hometowns and seek refuge.
However, the Home Affairs Ministry issued a circular asking the Natuna district administration to revoke their circular.
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The Health Minister also assured Natuna residents to stop worrying because those coming from Wuhan were healthy, as none of them had tested positive for the virus. Besides, the Natuna military base is some six kilometers away from residential areas.
Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs, Mahfud MD, admitted to a slight delay by the government in informing the residents about its decision to send the Indonesians to Natuna.
"This is not miscommunication. It is just delayed information. The situation developed so rapidly that the government worked at high speed soon after receiving a green light for evacuating our citizens from Wuhan, China," he said on February 4.
The outbreak of the new coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, in late 2019 has claimed 1,868 lives and there have been 72,436 confirmed cases, with 12,552 recovered, mainly in China and a few in 28 other countries.
No reports have, so far, been received of confirmed coronavirus cases in Indonesia. However, outside Indonesia, four Indonesian citizens – one migrant worker in Singapore, and three crew members of Diamond Princess cruise liner in Yokohama waters, Japan, have tested positive for the coronavirus called COVID-19.
More than 3,000 people, including 78 Indonesians, are stuck in Yokohama, Japan, on the cruise liner that became a floating quarantine zone after dozens of people onboard tested positive for the coronavirus.
Indonesia is not the only country using its military base to quarantine its citizens from Wuhan.
Around 800 United States citizens who had been evacuated from Wuhan, were quarantined on March Air Reserve Base and at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California.
The Pentagon recently said it will extend the availability of four military installations to act as temporary housing through March 15, to help the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) manage the novel coronavirus. No Pentagon civilian employees, military personnel or contractor personnel will be involved in these services, however, as HHS has to manage them.
"Hence, today's meeting is for brainstorming, collecting data on what's best for the future. Not for now," Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto said in Jakarta, recently.
He notified the press that during the meeting, the discussion centered on a particular place or island to host the planned facility to treat infectious diseases, such as the coronavirus.
The minister denied any rumor that the facility was required since the coronavirus outbreak would go on for long. "No, it will not last long. When the climate changes, it will also change," he stated.
At least 100 islands have been mapped out as possible sites, but the meeting did not take a decision since it was the first of its kind held to discuss the matter, he remarked.
All aspects were taken into account in connection with preparations for the special facility, the former head of the Gatot Soebroto Jakarta Army Hospital stated.
"We studied all aspects on biology, politics, economy, defense, and security. All were reviewed. Hence, it was just brainstorming," he stated following the meeting.
Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Mahfud MD had earlier also chaired a meeting to discuss preparations to find an island or special place where a special facility will be built for infectious disease treatment.
The meeting was attended by several ministers and related officials, including Minister of Health Terawan Agus Putranto, Head of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Doni Munardo, and Head of the Indonesian Defense Forces' Health Center Major General Bambang DH.
The meeting was a follow-up to President Joko Widodo's directives on the likelihood of building a specific place to exclusively treat and control infectious diseases, such as coronavirus, Mahfud explained.
"On February 4, the President gave directives to mull over the possibility of building a certain place that is exclusive and used as a hospital to cope with infectious diseases, such as coronavirus and SARS," he added.
The government might build a medical and rehabilitation center on an uninhabited island that would be used to isolate infectious disease victims.
Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelagic nation, has more than 17,000 islands and several of them are uninhabited. It's just a matter of time to choose one of the islands.
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