02/03/2020, 10.49
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Indonesians evacuated from Wuhan, welcomed by protests (Video)

by Mathias Hariyadi

The returnees will spend 14 days of quarantine in a military facility on the island of Natuna. For days the local population has protested against the government plan for fear of infection. Priest: "If someone gets sick, they are treated by the army and there would be no direct contact."

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The Indonesian authorities have repatriated 238 compatriots from the city of Wuhan, the capital of the Chinese province of Hubei and the epicenter of a deadly coronavirus epidemic.

Yesterday the government moved the group from Batam (Riau Islands province) to a facility on the island of Natuna - between the Malacca peninsula (west) and Borneo (east) - together with the five members of a team of experts and 42 officials involved in the evacuation. Returnees will spend 14 days in quarantine and will then be able to return to their families, once they have passed the checks.

For days the local population has opposed the government's plan, fearing the spread of the coronavirus. Yesterday, hundreds of people took part in a demonstration at the Natuna airport, where security forces were waiting for them. The officers issued an appeal to appease the spirits and no clashes occurred. The Indonesian Ministry of Health has ordered the opening of an office on the island.

Fr Agus Tarnanu, a priest from the diocese of Pangkalpinang who carries out his work in Natuna, explains to AsiaNews that health surveillance for Indonesians from Wuhan will take place in a military facility inside the airport.

Fr. Tarnanu says “authorities have transformed a hangar into a temporary refuge. In the military complex there is also a health facility, a hospital. If someone got sick, he would be treated by the army and there would be no direct contact with the local population."

The priest takes care of the 80 Catholic families who live near the station of San Paolo, in Ranai. "This belongs to the parish of Saint Mary Immaculate in Pangkalpinang, on the island of Bangka. I have been serving this small community for almost a year. In this period of time, I was able to go to the parish only four times, because the distance is long and the costs for the journey high".

In Indonesia, there are still no confirmed cases of contagion from coronaviruses, but yesterday the nearby Philippines announced the first death due to the virus: it is the first recorded outside China. The Indonesian Foreign Minister, Retno Marsudi, has announced some measures put in place to deal with the emergency: Jakarta has banned anyone from entering and transiting the country for 14 days. In addition, Indonesia will stop flights to and from mainland China the day after tomorrow.

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