President Joko Widodo wants to build coronavirus hospital on island near Singapore

People wearing face masks in Singapore’s Orchard Road. Photo: Coconuts
People wearing face masks in Singapore’s Orchard Road. Photo: Coconuts

Following yesterday’s announcement of the first COVID-19 cases in Indonesia, President Joko Widodo has expressed his wish for better containment of the disease, and it looks like it may involve taking the infected away from some of the country’s largest urban centers, but to a place that may put them too close for comfort to one of our closest neighbors.

Minister of Public Works and Housing (PUPR) Basuki Hadimuljono today said that Jokowi, during a cabinet meeting at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, has instructed for the construction of a special hospital catering for patients infected by the novel coronavirus.

Basuki said that plans for the coronavirus hospital are still in the earliest stages, though the government has already decided on its location.

“It will be built on Galang Island, in Batam. Transportation to and from there is easy,” Basuki told reporters today, as quoted by Kumparan.

Galang Island is a relatively sparsely populated area that forms part of Batam city but is located some 60 kilometers south of the city center. Batam itself is separated with Singapore only by the Singapore Strait, with ferries regularly transporting passengers between the two islands.

Fifteen people in Batam have been put under quarantine after they came in close contact with three Singaporean visitors who were diagnosed with COVID-19, prompting local authorities to step up surveillance of travelers coming into the city. The Singaporean patients visited Batam from Feb. 21 to 23.

As of today, the total reported infections in Singapore stands at 108, of which 78 have been discharged from hospitals. Indonesia has two officially confirmed COVID-19 patients thus far, both of whom are being treated in Jakarta’s Sulianti Saroso Infectious Diseases Hospital.

Related — Indonesia’s 2 COVID-19 patients ‘getting better’ in hospital: official

While specifics about the planned coronavirus hospital have not yet been revealed, Basuki said that it will be operated by the Health Ministry once it’s up and running.

Building a coronavirus hospital bears a resemblance to China’s reaction to the outbreak. As of the end of February, China had hurriedly built 16 temporary hospitals in Wuhan — the city at the center of the coronavirus epidemic — increasing the number of hospital beds in the city from 5,000 to 23,000. One of those makeshift hospitals were closed yesterday, officials said, after it discharged its last recovered patients and with China seeing a sharp fall in new cases.


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