As the death toll in China steadily rises, more cities are put under lockdown and suspected cases are found in other countries, fears over an outbreak of the new coronavirus have reached Indonesia.
On Friday, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said he had ordered Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto to increase the government’s vigilance regarding 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), also referred to as Wuhan coronavirus.
“We should be ready to examine everyone entering Indonesia or anyone who potentially carries the virus in their body,” he said. “However, as of today, according to the information I have received, and I hope it would stay this way, no one has been infected with coronavirus in Indonesia,” he added.
Indonesia has no confirmed cases as of Jan. 26.
Cases of suspected coronavirus patients in Indonesia
Bandung, West Java: Two patients
Hasan Sadikin Hospital (RSHS) in Bandung announced on Monday that it had quarantined two patients suspected of having 2019-nCoV. One is a Chinese national and the other Indonesian. Both suffered from an acute respiratory infection (ISPA) when admitted.
The 35-year-old Chinese man was admitted to RSHS on Sunday afternoon. He had returned to Indonesia on Jan. 12 after traveling to his hometown, Sichuan, China, some 1,300 kilometers from Wuhan.
The 24-year-old Indonesian patient was also admitted on Sunday after previously receiving care at Santo Borromeus Hospital. The patient, who has epilepsy, was in Singapore for a medical checkup from Jan. 19 to 22. He developed a fever and cough a day after he arrived in Bandung.
The head of a special infection team, Yovita Hartantri, said the patient had a seizure and lost consciousness on Saturday and was taken to Santo Borromeus Hospital. The blood test revealed signs of a lung infection.
Sorong, West Papua: One patient, suspected
A 39-year-old Chinese traveler has been admitted to Sele Be Solu Regional Hospital in Sorong. The hospital's director, Mavkren Kambuaya, said the hospital was still coordinating with the West Papua and Sorong Health Agency for further actions, according to kompas.com.
"The bottom line is, we don't have to worry because it's still suspected. We have not performed an examination because we have to send the [blood test] sample to Jakarta first," Mavken said on Sunday.
The patient had been on his way to Raja Ampat, a well-known diving spot when he developed a fever and was taken to Pertamina Hospital.
Surakarta, Central Java: A patient visiting Singapore, negative
The medical service department head of Dr. Moewardi Hospital, Harsini, said on Monday that one Indonesian had just returned from Singapore and complained of respiratory problems. However, after lab testing and a thorax X-Ray, the hospital concluded that the patient was coronavirus negative and had acute bronchitis.
Surabaya, East Java: One patient, negative
Dr. Soetomo Hospital in Surabaya dismissed reports that it was treating a Chinese patient suspected of having the new coronavirus. The hospital's spokesperson, Pesta Parulian, said the patient, who arrived from China on Jan. 5, had the common flu and bronchitis, according to kompas.com.
A medical officer pushes a trolley at an Isolation Room at Soetomo Regional Hospital in Surabaya, East Java, on Jan. 27. A visitor from China was being treated in the hospital but hospital officials claimed he had tested negative for the new coronavirus. (Antara/Moch Asim)
Jambi: One patient, negative
A patient, identified as a woman, was admitted to Raden Mattaher Hospital in Jambi on Saturday night. The hospital's deputy director, Dewi Lestari, toldThe Jakarta Post on Sunday that the patient had shown signs of breathing difficulty, the flu, coughing and a fever. The patient was in Wuhan from Dec. 20 to 27, 2019.
Medianto, one of two lung specialists on the case, said on Monday that the patient was only suffering from ISPA. He added that her phlegm sample would be sent to the Health Ministry’s laboratory. The patient was in stable condition as of Monday and would be sent home.
Jakarta: Two patients, negative
Health Ministry's disease prevention and monitoring director Wiendra Waworuntu confirmed on Thursday that one patient, identified as R, 35, was suspected of having the Wuhan coronavirus. The Indonesian citizen recently visited China and is currently undergoing treatment at the Sulianti Saroso Infection Hospital in North Jakarta.
On Sunday, R was confirmed to be coronavirus negative.
Earlier on Thursday, a Chinese employee of Chinese telecom giant Huawei was taken to the hospital for fear of being infected. The employee was at Huawei’s Jakarta office in the BRI building in South Jakarta. Terawan paid a visit to the building on the same day and dismissed reports of infection.
*Denpasar, Bali: Three patients, negative *
Bali Health Agency head Ketut Suarjaya told the Post that two Chinese tourists suspected of having the Wuhan coronavirus had tested negative. The tourists were admitted to Denpasar's Sanglah Central Hospital on Wednesday evening after showing flu-like symptoms.
The hospital also tested a tourist from Mexico, whose results were also negative. The Mexican national was released on Friday.
Riau Islands: Four patients, negative
Riau Islands Health Agency head Tjepjep Yudiana said port health officials found on Jan. 19 and 20 indications that four tourists from Wuhan may have been infected by the new coronavirus. They had sore throats and high temperatures and were immediately admitted to the Riau Islands General Hospital (RSUD) for further treatment under quarantine.
They were diagnosed with a common cold and returned home one day after their quarantine ended.
Is Indonesia prepared?
The Health Ministry has ordered the use of 135 thermal scanners at Indonesia's port of entries and designated 100 hospitals as referral hospitals for coronavirus cases in Indonesia. The hospitals previously received referral cases during the avian influenza outbreak.
Sulianto Saroso Hospital in Jakarta has been appointed the referral hospital at the national level, Health Ministry directorate general of prevention and disease control Anung Sugihantono said in a statement posted on the ministry's website. The hospital will also hold a webinar for 100 other referral hospitals.
In West Java, RSHS and Rotinsulu Lung Hospital have been chosen as referral hospitals for infection in West Java. RSHS's director of medics and care, Nucki Nursjamsi, said hospitals with suspected coronavirus cases must file a request via an online system first and wait for approval before sending a patient to RSHS to ensure the safety of other patients.
RSHS has prepared isolation room Kemuning for suspected patients. The room is equipped with sterilization tools, negative air pressure and is only accessible to special staffers who must wear a hazard suit.
The Adam Malik General Hospital in Medan, North Sumatra, has formed a special team called New-Emerging and Re-Emerging Infectious Disease (Pinere) consisting of 20 medical specialists. The team will care for suspected coronavirus patients and handle referral cases from Aceh, North Sumatra and Riau.
Pinere coordinating head Ade Rahmaini said on Friday that the team had dealt with one suspected patient in early January. The patient was admitted to Adam Malik Hospital after showing flu-like symptoms upon returning from a trip abroad. However, after three days, the patient was declared coronavirus-negative.
The politics of language
The government via Terawan has insisted that the country has zero coronavirus cases.
Read also: Experts warn against complacency as Indonesia reports zero cases of coronavirus
“No one is suspected of being infected [with the Wuhan coronavirus],” Terawan said on Sunday as quoted by Antara, despite reports of suspected cases in several regions.
The government appears to have applied a stricter definition of people suspected of being infected with 2019-nCoV.
According to case definition guidelines published by the World Health Organization, the term "suspected case" is used when a patient shows clinical signs and symptoms, even without laboratory evidence.
A probable case means a suspected case with supportive laboratory data and/or epidemic links.
It is only a "confirmed case" that needs laboratory evidence.
Arya Dipa, Jon Afrizal, Apriadi Gunawan and Kusumasari Ayuningtyas contributed to this report.