Disquiet in Indonesias Natuna over use of island as quarantine site amid novel coronavirus outbreak

JAKARTA: Residents on Natuna island have expressed concern that the regency is not adequately equipped to accommodate Indonesian citizens who have been quarantined after being evacuated from Wuhan.

“Its not that we dont accept the people, we are just very afraid of the virus. Natuna island is very small. If it (the novel coronavirus) spreads, everything will be finished,” Ranai resident Mr Kiki Firdaus told CNA on Monday (Feb 3).



He expressed disappointment that the central government did not inform residents beforehand that their island had been designated as a quarantine site.

“Suddenly they unloaded logistics in Natuna. Of course, we feel betrayed,” he said.

Mr Firdaus and hundreds of others have demonstrated in front of the local parliament, the naval base and at the airport since Saturday.

Hundreds of people held a protest in front of Ranai's naval base on Feb 1, 2020 to protest against the quarantine of evacuees from Hubei on Natuna island. (Photo: Kiki Firdaus)



There are more than 280 people, including flight crew and personnel who are now quarantined in Natuna after returning from Chinas Hubei province.

They arrived in Natunas capital Ranai, a city of around 20,000 people, on Sunday and locals are against the governments move to quarantine them for 14 days there.

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Midwife Mdm Zakiah, who attended one of the protests, said that there are limited medical facilities in Natuna.

“I know the equipment is limited. Natuna only has a military hospital and the local hospital where I work,” she said.

Mdm Zakiah, who only wanted to be known by her first name, said the only protective equipment available for healthcare workers is surgical masks.

“We dont have bodysuits … We are afraid that if people are contaminated and they have to come to our hospital, what should we do?”

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The midwife also pointed out that Ranai city often suffers from electrical blackouts, making it a less than ideal place for quarantine and medical treatment.

Medical officers prepare evacuated Indonesian nationals from Wuhan, China's center of the coronavirus epidemic, before transferring them to the Natuna Islands military base to be quarantined, at Hang Nadim Airport in Batam, Riau Islands. (Photo: Reuters)


On the ground, there has been confusion over the location of the quarantine area.

Military chief Hadi Tjahjanto previously said the evacuees will be quarantined in a place about 5-6 km away from residents. However, as of Monday morning, they were quarantined near the airport, less than 2 km away from a housing area, Mdm Zakiah said.

“If the place (for quarantine) is a bit further, perhaps Id be a bit calmer. I have a five-year-old daughter,” she said.

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Financial planner Mr Erwin, who goes by one name, shared the same concern as he lives near the airport.

“We are not trying to repel them … I want a guarantee from the central government that nothing will happen to Natuna.

“People on social media are saying that the people of Natuna dont want to work together with the government. Its not that. We just want clarity and to feel secure and safe,” said the 30-year-old.

A medical staff prepares equipment at a lung isolate-room specialised for the patients affected by coronavirus at a hospital in Dumai, Riau province, Indonesia, January 25, 2020 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Aswaddy Hamid/ via REUTERS

On Monday, the local government said elementary and junior high schools will be closed until Feb 17.

When approached by CNA, member of Natuna parliament Wan Arismunandar said the decision to close the schools was in response to the peoples will.

“If we didnt grant them their wish, they would not send their children to school anyway,” he said.

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But later in the day, the local government said it might retract the decision at the recommendation of the home affairs ministry. This sparked confusion among parents.


Mr Arismunandar addRead More – Source