To curb infections, the government has imposed large-scale social distancing measures, banned any kind of activities that involve gathering of people, closed tourist and amusement centers as well as places of worship, and ordered students to study and employees to work from their homes.
While the country wages war against the deadly virus at home, the government has also promised to protect and help Indonesian citizens studying, working, or visiting overseas.
With their countries of residence or travel destinations imposing lockdowns or quarantines, sealing borders, and banning or restricting international flights to slow the spread of the virus, many Indonesian nationals have been left “trapped” or “stranded”.
The Indonesian Government has vowed that the safety and protection of Indonesian nationals overseas remains its highest priority.
"We have provided assistance in more than 1,600 cases involving Indonesian nationals abroad, and support has been provided by our representatives," Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi told the press on March 26.
Amid the global spike in the number of coronavirus patients, authorities in foreign countries had earlier appealed to Indonesians abroad to return to Indonesia in view of the risk of flight cancellations owing to the imposition of travel restrictions. But, many of them could not make it due to various reasons.
The Indonesian Embassy in Wellington, New Zealand, for instance, had urged Indonesian tourists to immediately return to their home country to avoid untoward incidents.
Indonesian embassies and consulates overseas have been monitoring Indonesian nationals and established communication with a few of them, as well as offered financial assistance and food packages, as was witnessed in the case of Indonesian students in China.
In further grim tidings, the Foreign Ministry has informed that as many as 191 Indonesians, including 49 cruise ship crew, tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) in 22 countries as of April 2.
"The 49 Indonesian crew members are employed in different ships, including Costa Luminosa (cruise) ship (docked in Italy)," according to the ministry.
The 22 countries include Singapore, Japan, the UK, Italy, Oman, Belgium, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, the United States, China, Brunei Darussalam, and Spain.
Most of the 191 Indonesians testing positive for COVID-19 were in stable health. In fact, at least 29 of them have recovered. Three Indonesians have succumbed to the COVID-19 infection each in Malaysia, Singapore, and the UK.
Earlier, the Indonesian Government had evacuated its citizens from Wuhan, Ground Zero of the coronavirus outbreak in late 2019.
On February 2, a total of 238 Indonesians, mostly students, were evacuated from Wuhan to Natuna Island and quarantined for 14 days. In early March, the government evacuated 68 Indonesian crew members of the Diamond Princes docking in Yokohama, Japan, and later, 188 others from the World Dream cruise ship. All of them passed their quarantine.
The government has ordered that anyone, regardless of nationality, must first be quarantined for at least 14 days upon entering Indonesia.
This measure is in accordance with the instructions provided by President Jokowi, who has highlighted the importance of imposing stricter rules on the inflow of foreigners and Indonesians returning from overseas.
Jokowi has also confirmed receiving reports that in the past few days, over three thousand workers from Malaysia have returned to their hometowns on a daily basis.
According to the Indonesian Foreign Ministry, as of April 6, around 44,650 Indonesians in Malaysia have returned to the homeland, while around 1.2 million others have remained in the neighboring country. In addition, only 4,496 of the 16,863 Indonesian sailors abroad have been able to return home.
The Agency for the Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers (BP2MI) has reported thousands of Indonesian migrant workers have returned from countries affected by COVID-19, such as Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea,
The Indonesian Government is considering all Indonesian citizens arriving from abroad as people under monitoring (ODP) and has made it mandatory for them to undergo self-isolation for 14 days.
As for stranded Indonesians, the spotlight has been on 984 members of the Jamaah Tabligh. Most of them have been unable to return to Indonesia owing to a cash crunch. Only 10 of them have managed to return home, while the rest are still stranded in eight countries, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and the Philippines.
As many as 17 Indonesian members of the Jamaah Tabligh in India have received medical treatment at a local hospital for coronavirus infection and are in stable condition, while 10 others have recovered from the disease, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry said.
"Based on the latest data from the Indonesian Embassy in New Delhi, 27 Indonesian members of the Jamaah Tabligh have contracted the COVID-19 infection, and 17 of them are still receiving medical treatment and 10 others have recovered," director of the Indonesian Citizens and Legal Entities Protection at the Indonesian Foreign Ministry, Judha Nugraha, said in a press conference in Jakarta on April 10.
"We have (faced) difficulties (registering the members of the Jamaah Tabligh) since they did not report to our missions. So, we have made every effort to contact them and coordinated with their head office in Kebon Jeruk (Jakarta) to register them," he informed.
The Jamaah Tabligh had insisted on organizing its annual meeting in Delhi on March 3. The Indian Government imposed a total lockdown on March 24.
The Tabligh members have been left stranded as they ignored an advisory by Indonesia on March 17, 2020, requesting all nationals abroad to return home or face the risk of lockdown. (INE)
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