JAKARTA: The Indonesian government will evacuate citizens working on board the Diamond Princess and World Dream cruise ships, said the Health Ministry on Friday (Feb 21).
In particular, those evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise liner docked off Japan’s coast could be subject to a stricter 28-day quarantine regime.
A total of 78 Indonesians worked on the Diamond Princess, four of whom are now hospitalised in Japan after testing positive for COVID-19.
The Indonesian government is currently awaiting the final screening test results of the remaining 74 citizens. They may be permitted to disembark as early as Saturday.
READ: Quarantine nightmare still not over for left-behind Diamond Princess cruise ship crew
Once they have tested negative, the government will bring them back to Indonesia and put them under quarantine for 28 days, said Mr Achmad Yurianto, the Health Ministry’s secretary of the directorate-general in-charge of disease and prevention control during a press conference.
This will be twice as long compared to those previously evacuated from Wuhan and quarantined in Natuna.
Mr Yurianto said this measure has been planned taking into account that those on the Diamond Princess, who have tested positive for the COVID-19, did not show any prior symptoms. This is a worrying situation, he said.
“That’s why there’s increased vigilance for them … And we have decided the quarantine period for them would be two times of 14 days,” he said.
“In China, there are cases where the symptoms emerge on day 20. This is just lately and outside of Hubei,” he noted.
There have been more than 600 COVID-19 cases on the Diamond Princess, the largest cluster of infection outside China.
READ: Diary from Indonesia’s Natuna - Tents, health checks and communal games in COVID-19 quarantine centre
Mr Yurianto revealed that the crew will be brought back to Indonesia using either a plane or a military hospital ship, subject to the approval of President Joko Widodo.
Once they have arrived in Indonesia they will be tested thoroughly and undergo a swab test. If possible, they would also undergo chest x-ray.
“Not just a physical examination but also a virus test. This is different from the first group (of Indonesian evacuees from Wuhan),” he said.
“This is important, because during the quarantine process, we will separate them into clusters.
“For example, we will ask them: ‘Who here had a roommate on board who tested positive (for COVID-19)?'" he said.
People would then be put into several different groups, based on their response.
Mr Yurianto reiterated that the quarantine process will be different from the returnees who were quarantined on Natuna for 14 days and shared sleeping tents.
He said if a military ship is deployed for evacuation, the entire process of travelling from Indonesia to Japan and back would take 28 days. This would do away with the need for a quarantine regime on land.
NAVY SHIP MAY BE DEPLOYED FOR WORLD DREAM EVACUATION
Additionally, there are plans to evacuate Indonesians onboard the World Dream cruise liner, now believed to be on international waters near Bintan island.
About 270 Indonesian citizens worked on the World Dream cruise, the ministry official said.
“There are plans to bring them back with a navy ship … Once they’ve boarded the ship, we will observe them for 14 days,” he said, adding that the authorities have yet to identify a quarantine site for this group.
The World Dream carried three Chinese passengers to Vietnam between Jan 19 and 24 who were later found to be infected with COVID-19. There were fears that the crew could have been infected and Hong Kong authorities quarantined the ship.
Thousands of people were allowed to disembark on Feb 9, after its 1,800 crew tested negative for the virus. The crew are said to have remained on board.
The Indonesian government had earlier placed 285 Indonesians evacuated from Wuhan at Ranai, Natuna Island, between Feb 2 and Feb 16.