Women wearing face masks walk in a public area in Banda Aceh on March 2. Indonesia has reported its first confirmed cases of coronavirus after health officials hit back at questions over its apparent lack of infected patients. (Photo: Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP)
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has announced that a mother and her daughter have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, becoming the first two confirmed Covid-19 cases in the country.
The 64-year-old woman and her daughter, 31, were believed to have contracted the deadly disease from a Japanese national visiting Indonesia who later tested positive in Malaysia, Widodo told reporters.
“A team from Indonesia directly traced who she met in Indonesia,” Widodo said on March 2.
“The woman with coronavirus had been in contact with two people: a 64-year-old mother and her 31-year-old daughter. The team checked these two people, and this morning I received a report from the health minister that they tested positive for the coronavirus,” he said.
Widodo gave assurances that the government has taken measures to deal with the Covid-19 outbreak.
“Since the beginning, the government has prepared more than 100 hospitals with good quality isolation wards. We also have medical equipment up to international standards,” he said, adding that a joint team of military personnel, policemen and civilians as well as related parties had been formed to handle matters.
According to Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto, the infected mother and daughter are from Depok in West Java province and are receiving treatment in an isolation ward at Sulianti Saroso Infectious Diseases Hospital (RSPI) in Jakarta.
Depok mayor Mohammad Idris Abdul Shomad said the infected patients’ home had been sterilized as a precaution.
Father Samuel Pangestu, vicar general of Jakarta Archdiocese, issued a statement offering advice to churchgoers after consulting with the archdiocese’s Commission for Health and Catholic doctors at St. Carolus Hospital in Jakarta.
“Catholics can still go to Masses,” he said. “However, those suffering from respiratory problems [coughs, cold, sore throat], are urged to to stay at home and see a doctor. It’s advisable that Massgoers receive the Holy Communion by hand, and the rite of peace can still be done by paying attention to the cleanliness of Massgoers’ hands.”
A similar call came from Father Paulus Haruna, vicar general of Bogor Diocese. He said in a statement that Catholics should “bow or kneel before the Cross” during the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday.
Felix Gunawan, a doctor and chairman of the Jakarta-based Catholic Association of Indonesian Health Services, called on people not to panic but suggested that people avoid crowds.
“The risk of infection is greatly increased when we are in the middle of a crowd,” he told UCA News.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Council for Confucian Religion issued a statement also calling on people not to panic.
“Avoid making direct contact with people suffering from a cold, cough, sore throat or respiratory problems without proper protection; reduce unimportant activities, live normally, do not panic,” said the statement.
Media reported a rush to buy masks and hand sanitizers soon after the infections were announced, with some items selling 10 times higher than normal.
As part of preventive measures, Jakarta governor Anies Rasyid Baswedan urged mayors and agency heads as well as district and subdistrict heads to step up efforts to educate the public about the deadly coronavirus.
“We are supporting and organizing events to warn people about how to mitigate the risks of Covid-19 infection in Jakarta,” he said, calling on people not to spread fake news about the virus.
Up to 76 countries and territories have confirmed coronavirus cases. As of March 3, there were nearly 91,000 confirmed cases with 3,117 deaths worldwide.