Jakarta schools to close for 2 weeks over virus concerns

Students having their temperatures checked upon arrival at Jakarta Nanyang School in Serpong last week. (AP pic)

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s capital city will close all schools and ordered remote teaching for at least two weeks starting next week to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said on Saturday.

The world’s fourth most populous country on Friday reported 35 new coronavirus cases, including two toddlers, bringing its total to 69. At least four people have died of the virus.

The doubling of confirmed infections had already triggered some schools to announce closures ahead of Baswedan’s announcement, while some companies had also suggested employees work from home.

Baswedan said out of 69 confirmed coronavirus cases nationwide, an unspecified number of people were detected in many places across Jakarta, a city of 10 million people.

The number of people under surveillance in the city had jumped to 586 people as of March 12, compared to 129 at the beginning of the month, while the number of patients suspected of having Covid-19 had surged to 261 from 39 in the same period.

“What must be done right now is to reduce interactions between residents. Social distancing measures must be taken,” Baswedan said, urging residents to also stay at home and not travel unless necessary.

“Children, based on data, not many of them have been infected with Covid-19, but they are carriers and they spread the virus from one adult to another,” he said in a news conference.

Doctors and nurses in the city have been under strain trying to treat patients and some of them had been infected, Baswedan said.

The governor had also decided to close museums, parks and zoos for two weeks beginning Friday.

The city of Solo in central Java has also announced school closures.

Indonesia only confirmed its first cases of the virus last week while some neighbours had reported scores of cases far earlier, raising concerns among medical experts about infections either not being reported or going undetected.

The central government has faced criticism for withholding information regarding the spread of the virus, arguing it could cause panic. It regularly discloses the number of patients and deaths, but does not say where infections are detected.

Neighbouring Australia has advised its citizens to reconsider overseas travel plans including to Indonesia, citing a growing risk of transmission in the country and limited availability of testing and infection control facilities.