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Indonesia picks island near Singapore to treat virus patients

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Indonesia plans to build a hospital to treat people infected by the deadly coronavirus at Galang, an island in Riau province close to Singapore, a senior minister said.

[JAKARTA] Indonesia plans to build a hospital to treat people infected by the deadly coronavirus at Galang, an island in Riau province close to Singapore, a senior minister said.

The facility will be constructed with the help of the army and will be run by the health ministry, Public Works and Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono told reporters in Jakarta on Tuesday. The hospital, to be located about an hour away from Batam airport, will be more easily accessible than Sebaru Island near Jakarta, where about 250 evacuees from two cruise ships are currently quarantined, he said.

Indonesia reported its first two cases of coronavirus infections on Monday as the deadly epidemic continued to spread outside of China, the epicenter of the outbreak. The two patients, being treated in a hospital in Jakarta, are stable, said Achmad Yurianto, a government spokesman.

While two other family members of the infected Indonesians tested negative for the virus, authorities are still tracking about 50 members of a dance community that was frequented by one of the patients, Mr Yurianto said. About 180 crew members of World Dream cruise ship, who were evacuated by authorities tested negative for the virus, while 60 of the 69 crew members of Diamond Princess cruise ship were also free from infection, he said.

Indonesia had quarantined 243 people on the island of Natuna after they were evacuated from coronavirus-hit Wuhan and other parts of China. The move was protested by the locals, prompting authorities to say it will scout for an uninhabited island in the archipelago to quarantine and treat infectious disease patients.

Galang was once used as a refugee camp by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to accommodate more than 170,000 people who fled conflict in Southeast Asia, according to the UN agency. The camp was closed in 1996.

 

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