Indonesia prepares repatriation of trapped citizens in Hubei

The Indonesian government is set to repatriate its citizens trapped in China after it sought the evacuation approval of the virus-hit country.

Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi told the Indonesian media on Thursday that the country is now ready to repatriate 243 Indonesian citizens—some of them are students—from the Hubei province and will soon carry out the task.

She said Indonesia was in coordination with Chinese authorities for the trapped individuals to be evacuated soon amid the lockdown on Wuhan Airport.

“We have coordinated [with the Chinese government] and they are willing to facilitate us in the evacuations,” Marsudi was quoted as saying.

Indonesia was in talks with Australia, who is also seeking China’s approval to repatriate its citizens. It was seeking tips with the United States and Japan which have already carried out the evacuation of their residents.

“We need to learn from each other on how to evacuate our citizens as soon as possible,” Marsudi said.

Marsudi said evacuations were not simple as the government would need to look into gathering Indonesians in Hubei and transfer them back to Indonesia.

The Indonesian Air Force is currently on standby and is only awaiting instructions from the government regarding the repatriation process.

Marsudi said repatriation could happen at any time.

Once returned, the 243 Indonesians will be quarantined at Sulianto Saroso Hospital in North Jakarta, which was designated as the facility for the evacuees. It would be up to the Health Ministry and other relevant authorities whether to release or quarantine them.

Earlier this week, Foreign Ministry acting spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said that the Indonesian government had two options—whether to quarantine Indonesians in China or repatriate and quarantine them home.

The government is in close coordination with the Indonesian Students Association in Hubei to ensure that the citizens have an ample supply of necessities over the next seven days.

As of Thursday, the death toll linked to the 2019 novel coronavirus hit 170 in China alone, while confirmed cases reached 7,710 globally.

Some 81,000 individuals were under observation for possible infection.

Earlier, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned all governments to be “on alert” as it weighed whether to declare a global health emergency.