March 14, 2020 / 6:53 AM / in 15 days

Indonesia transport minister confirmed to have coronavirus as cases climb

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian Transport Minister Budi Karya Sumadi has been hospitalized in Jakarta after he contracted coronavirus, a government official said on Saturday, the most high-profile case so far to be confirmed in the Southeast Asian country.

A worker wearing protective suit sprays disinfectant in Sea World, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Jakarta, Indonesia, March 14, 2020. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana

Earlier on Saturday, Jakarta’s governor said the city will close all schools for at least two weeks to curb the spread of coronavirus, as the first cases were also reported in other parts of the archipelago.

Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, reported on Saturday 27 more coronavirus cases, bringing the total confirmed infections to 96 and deaths to five.

Sumadi’s family had given approval for the announcement after the minister had been on “the front line and a very important part of containing the impact of COVID-19”, Pratikno, who is state secretary in charge of administrative support for the office of president, told a news conference.

The condition of Sumadi, 63, who had attended a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, was showing an improvement, said Albertus Budi Sulistya, deputy head of the Gatot Soebroto Hospital.

“He was initially being treated for other illnesses in a private hospital until he had difficulty breathing, then some medical equipment had to be brought in,” said Sulistya.

The health ministry had conducted some tracing of people Sumadi had recently met and “would immediately begin testing as required”, said Pratikno, who uses one name.

The transport minister had sat in a room with number of ministers and the army head during the cabinet meeting earlier this week, which was also attended by President Joko Widodo.

CASES ACROSS ARCHIPELAGO

While most confirmed coronavirus cases have been clustered in Jakarta, cases were also reported on Saturday in cities in western and central Java, Manado on Sulawesi island and Pontianak on Borneo island.

“We must massively, in an integrated way and without panic, search and find and isolate positive cases,” health ministry official Achmad Yurianto told a news briefing.

Doni Monardo, who leads Indonesia’s task force on coronavirus, said testing will be increased and struggling medical staff will be assisted by medical students and volunteers.

As he announced school closures, Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said cases had been detected in many parts of the city of 10 million people.

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

Indonesia confirmed its first cases of the virus only last week while some countries in the region 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.

Additional reporting by Gayatri Suroyo and Maikel Jefriando; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Catherine Evans

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