JAKARTA — After weeks as one of Asia’s only major countries with no confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Monday that two women in the country had been infected.
A 64-year-old woman and her 31-year-old daughter, who live outside Jakarta in Depok, West Java Province, were known to have been in contact with a Japanese national who had tested positive in Malaysia upon traveling from Indonesia.
Indonesian health officials have been under scrutiny after reporting no single case of COVID-19 before Monday’s announcement. The zero count in the world’s fourth-most populous nation was seen as unlikely as neighbors such as Singapore and Malaysia have reported cases, and as many people fly between China, the center of the outbreak, and Japan, which has reported several hundred cases.
On the new cases, Widodo told reporters at the presidential office in Jakarta that “the health ministry tracked the Japanese national’s [whereabouts] in Indonesia… turns out that the coronavirus patient had contacts with two people — the mother and daughter.”
The two patients are currently isolated at Sulianti Saroso Hospital in Jakarta, a national center for contagious diseases, according to Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto.
He said the two patients had showed flu-like symptoms — including coughing, fever and difficulty breathing before testing positive for COVID-19 on Monday morning. Health officials are now checking other people who may have been in close contacts with the two women, he added.
Malaysia’s health ministry identified a 41-year-old Japanese woman working in Malaysia as its 24th case. She had traveled to Japan in January and to Indonesia in early February, before testing positive in Malaysia last week.
Concerns had increased following reports of people who tested positive after traveling to Indonesia.
On Monday, The Jakarta Post said that two Singapore citizens and a Myanmar national tested positive in Singapore after recently visiting Batam, an Indonesian island close to Singapore. Last week, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported that a Japanese man in his 60s tested positive after traveling on a family vacation to Indonesia in mid-February.
Indonesia had earlier pulled 238 of its citizens out of Wuhan, and released all of them after 14 days of quarantine in a military base on the Natuna Islands in early February.
More recently, it evacuated 188 Indonesian crew members from the World Dream cruise ship near Singapore, and put all of them on a 14-day quarantine starting last Friday on Sebaru island, north of Jakarta.
As many as 69 Indonesians working on the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama, Japan, arrived in Indonesia on Sunday night and also will be quarantined in Sebaru. Two of them had tested positive while in Japan but were declared as recovered later.
The benchmark Jakarta Composite Index fell as much as 1.1% on Monday.
Culled from www.asia.nikkei.com