News Focus

Indonesia builds hospitals, quarantine centers in handling COVID-19

Indonesia builds hospitals, quarantine centers in handling COVID-19

Indonesia built a new emergency hospital on Galang Island. (ANTARA FOTO/SIGID KURNIAWAN)

Indonesia's government has expedited efforts to ready emergency hospitals and quarantine centers by constructing new buildings or reassigning existing ones, including former refugee camps and athlete hostels, against a worse-case scenario of coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission.

As of April 3, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most populous nation of over 270 million, had reached 1,790, with 170 patients succumbing to the infection and 112 patients recovering from it. The first two confirmed coronavirus cases were announced on March 2, 2020.

Globally, the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus, which first emerged in China's town of Wuhan in December, 2019, jumped to 1,015,728, with 53,202 people dying of the disease and 212,991 fully recovering.

Given the swift spike in infections, Indonesia’s government has declared large-scale social distancing measures nationwide, banning foreigners from entering the country, urging people to stay at home, closing schools and amusement centers, and restricting citizens’ movement.

Hundreds of hospitals across Indonesia have been assigned to function as referral hospitals for COVID-19 treatment, while several other buildings have been converted into emergency hospitals or quarantine centers.

The government has constructed major infectious disease observation and quarantine facilities as well as a research center at the former Vietnamese refugee camp of Galang Island, Batam City, Riau Islands Province.

While visiting Galang Island on April 2, 2020, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) said the new emergency hospital on Galang Island will be ready to treat COVID-19 cases, and it will continue to handle infectious diseases and conduct research after the pandemic ends.

"We have planned and prepared everything. We hope it (more cases) do not surface, but at least, we are ready," Jokowi, accompanied by Public Works and Public Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono and National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Chief Lt Gen. Doni Monardo, stated.

The hospital’s construction work began on March 8, 2020, and the authorities plan to commence operations from April 6, 2020.

The Galang infectious disease hospital has 360 beds, 20 ICU isolation beds, and 30 non-ICU isolation beds.

The Galang Island facilities, divided into three zones, span 16 hectares. Zone A can accommodate employees, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers; Zone B includes the main building housing an isolation room with 20 beds and an observation building with 340 beds and laboratories; while Zone C is for non-ICU treatment, with 30 beds and observation rooms. The emergency hospital also has three helipads.

In addition to the Galang Island facilities, the government has converted two athlete hostels used to accommodate thousands of athletes during the Asian Games held simultaneously in Jakarta and Palembang, South Sumatra, in 2018.

The number of inpatients at the Wisma Atlet Emergency Hospital located in Kemayoran, Jakarta, burgeoned to 449 as of April 2, from 432 on the previous day.

"The inpatients comprised 276 men and 173 women," Brigadier General M. Saleh, deputy of the hospital's Combined Joint Task Force, noted in a statement.

Of the total, 125 were confirmed patients, 242 were patients under surveillance (PDP), and 82 people under monitoring (ODP).

The Wisma Atlet Emergency Hospital, housing two towers at the Wisma Athletes (Athletes Housing), was officially inaugurated on March 23, 2020.

Maj. Gen. Eko Margiyono, head of the emergency hospital, revealed that in the event of continued rise in the number of COVID-19 positive cases, two additional towers in the building complex will be turned into treatment rooms.

In Palembang, the Jakabaring Athlete housing center has been converted into an emergency hospital, with 369 rooms and some one thousand beds. Other towers will also be readied to accommodate more patients if needed.

Currently, 72 Indonesian migrant workers coming from Malaysia and Singapore were being quarantined in Jakabaring as ODP in the fight against COVID-19.

With tens of thousands of Indonesian migrant workers returning from abroad, particularly Malaysia, the government has put in place measures for them to firstly be quarantined to monitor their health.

"The day our migrant workers arrived in Riau, our health workers checked their body temperature and sprayed disinfectant liquid over them," spokesperson for the Riau Provincial Administration's Task Force for Handling COVID-19 Indra Yovi stated recently.

In addition to migrant workers returning from abroad, domestic migrant workers also tended to go back to their villages since several of them, being micro-scale self-employed people, had lost their jobs, and they were keen on spending the holy fasting month of Ramadan and Idul Fitri Islamic festivity with their relatives in their hometowns.

Prior to Idul Fitri, an exodus of homebound travelers is usually observed from cities to rural areas across Indonesia. This year, Idul Fitri will be celebrated on May 24-25.

The government has urged Indonesians to not return to their hometowns for Idul Fitri celebrations to prevent COVID-19 transmission to rural areas. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, thousands of people began their return earlier than usual despite the appeal.

Hence, the government has ruled that people keen on returning to their hometowns, or locally called "mudik", must be quarantined for 14 days and undergo health examination in their hometowns.

On March 27, Indonesian government's spokesperson for COVID-19 response, Achmad Yurianto, urged people to not return to their hometowns to avoid the risk of spreading the contagion to more areas.

Yurianto pointed to the risk being much higher due to close contact between travelers, especially among those using means of public transportation that are crowded.

Development of Disadvantaged Regions, Villages, and Transmigration (PDTT) Minister Abdul Halim Iskandar ordered village chiefs to prepare quarantine centers to fight the coronavirus transmission.

"Schools, places of worship, village halls, or homes lent by residents can serve as isolation rooms," the PDTT minister noted in a statement on April 2, 2020.

Iskandar has issued circulars that instruct village chiefs to establish volunteer task forces against COVID-19 and village volunteer protocols in tackling the pandemic.

The COVID-19 task forces should help ready quarantine rooms replete with facilities, including for bathing and washing, as well as toilets and beds.

The isolation rooms are intended for use for villagers with ODP status, as they return from COVID-19 affected regions.

"That is because not all villagers have adequate rooms in the house. How can you isolate people if their houses have no separate rooms? The solution lies in using elementary school buildings and village halls and placing partitions to create several rooms," Iskandar noted.  Related news: Bali Governor issues instruction to intensify prevention of COVID-19
Related news: Indonesian government urges people to not embark on "mudik"