Indonesia to evacuate citizens from China's Hubei province

An estimated 243 Indonesians are believed to be in the virus-stricken province
Indonesia to evacuate citizens from China's Hubei province

An Indonesian health officer stands next to a thermal scanner for passengers at Lombok International Airport on Jan. 26 amid a deadly virus outbreak that began in the Chinese city of Wuhan. (Photo: Moh el Sasaky/AFP)

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has ordered the immediate evacuation of Indonesian citizens from China’s Hubei province as the deadly coronavirus outbreak continues to spread.

The order came after a special meeting to discuss the issue with the foreign and health ministers on Jan. 30. There are believed to be 243 Indonesians in the Chinese province.  

"The president has ordered that they be evacuated from Hubei province immediately," Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told reporters after the meeting.

In a press statement shortly afterward, Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said preparations were being finalized to gather the people from seven locations in Hubei before sending a plane to pick them up at Wuhan airport.

"This is necessary so that the evacuation can take place quickly and smoothly," he said.

Indonesian embassy officials from Beijing will be coordinating the evacuation, he added.

In Indonesia, there has not yet been a confirmed case of the deadly virus that has killed at least 213 people and infected more than 9,000 in China and at least 18 other countries.

A number of people have displayed flu and pneumonia-like symptoms but tests proved negative for the virus.

Dr. Felix Gunawan, executive director of the Catholic Association of Indonesian Health Services, said no special plans have been drawn up to tackle the virus.

"However, hospitals would be ready to treat people if a case is detected," he told UCA News.

Anung Sugihantono, director-general of disease prevention and control at the Ministry of Health, said 100 hospitals are ready to treat patients if there is a confirmed coronavirus infection.

As the number of cases continues to increase, the Indonesian government has stepped up prevention efforts, including virus screening at airports and the monitoring of passengers, especially those coming from China.

In the bustling tourist area of Labuan Bajo, the gateway to the predominantly Catholic island of Flores, airport and harbor officials have installed thermal scanners to screen tourists, many of whom come from China.

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