More than 1,000 crewmen had arrived back in the country by Wednesday. The foreign ministry confirmed that 963 crewmen had been repatriated by April 2 on commercial and charter flights funded by their cruise operators.These included more than 200 Indonesian crewmen of the MSC Fantasia crew who arrived over the weekend in Denpasar, Bali, flying from Lisbon on Air Europa flight AE672 after disembarking in Portugal, where the cruise ship carrying 1,338 passengers had made port.On the last day of March, 316 Indonesian crewmen of the MSC Splendida arrived by plane in Denpasar from Genoa, Italy, considered the epicenter of the European pandemic.Read also: Cruise ship responsible for jump in Australia coronavirus cases The ministry’s data shows that an estimated 12,748 Indonesians work as crew members aboard 89 cruise ships around the world operated by 10 major cruise operators.The crewmen’s repatriation has given rise to worries of potential imported cases, as international cruise liners like Diamond Princess, World Dream, Westerdam and Zaandam emerged as “hot spots” of COVID-19 infectionThe International Rescue Committee (IRC) reported that COVID-19 transmission occurred four times faster aboard Diamond Princess than during the peak of the outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus was first detected.As many as 712 out of the more than 3,700 passengers and crew aboard Diamond Princess contracted the virus during its two-month quarantine in Yokohama, Japan.Despite concerns over compounding the outbreak in Indonesia, the foreign ministry said the government could not lawfully prevent its citizens from returning to the country, citing the 2011 Immigration Law. It added, however, that authorities could ramp up efforts to detect the disease upon their arrival.All repatriated citizens are required to undergo all necessary health protocols at their port of entry, where health officials will take their body temperature, check them for symptoms and test them for the virus using rapid testing kits.Returnees who tested positive for the virus are quarantined at their port of entry, while those who tested negative are advised to self-quarantine for 14 days at home.“We will facilitate the needs of Indonesian citizens who have decided to come home, but they must obey the protocol so they won’t spread the virus,” said the Foreign Ministry’s overseas citizen protection director, Judha Nugraha.Read also: COVID-19: Govt to allocate Rp 100 billion to protect Indonesians abroadLawmakers, however, expressed their doubt over current measures.Effendy Simbolon of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) pointed out the often lax implementation of health protocols at Indonesian ports.“There is an inconsistency in the protocol as imposed on [Indonesians] and the government’s [effort]. It is very relaxed,” he said on Tuesday at a working meeting between House Commission I on foreign affairs and the ministry.“The protocol as imposed on arrivals [aboard] international airlines, for instance, is extremely loose,” he noted.The commission has asked the government to impose more stringent screening at all ports of entry in the country.Topics : Ninety-two Indonesian crewmen aboard a number of international cruise liners had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday morning, the Foreign Ministry indicated on a map of all affected Indonesians abroad on its official Twitter account.The tweeted map also noted that all were “stable”.Hi #Diplomates, attached is the Global #COVID19 Update and Indonesian Citizen Protection as of 08/04; 08.00 Western Indonesian Time.The map shows active COVID-19 Cases of Indonesian Citizen Abroad.#IndonesianWay pic.twitter.com/oiT17RiHj5— MoFA Indonesia (@Kemlu_RI) April 8, 2020Even so, the government still allowed hundreds of other crewmen to return to the country, as many cruise operators had halted their operations in response to the pandemic. The crewmen’s return has raised concerns over whether this could worsen the disease’s spread across the archipelago.
Visiting United States Ambassador on Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), Bonnie D. Jenkins, has urged the national government and its partners to intensify efforts to rebuild the public health sector.Ambassador Jenkins made the call yesterday during a two-day celebration of Laboratory Week for medical laboratory professionals in the country.Lab Week celebration is meant to promote improvements in Laboratory Science, which according to the Ministry of Health, is now an essential component in health services in Liberia since the Ebola outbreak. It is hosted by Africabio Enterprises Incorporated, with sponsorship from Exxon Mobil, World Health Organization (WHO), Clinton Health Access Initiative and Coca-Cola, among others.Ambassador Jenkins emphasized that when the public health sector of Liberia is rebuilt, the country will have a resilient health system and ensure that efficient medical services are provided to its citizens.In the absence of a good public health system, disease outbreaks can be very devastating, Amb. Jenkins warned.She observed that the public health sector is in dire need of resuscitation, and added that government and partners need to strengthen laboratories to enable health workers to prevent diseases.National Director for Reference Laboratory (NDRL) at the Ministry of Health, Mr. Philip Sahr, lauded President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for making Liberia a part of Global Health Security Agenda. He said the process of building laboratory systems in the past was very difficult because resources from government were limited.Mr. Sahr recalled that in the past, the National Reference Laboratory started with a single room in 2002; seven years later it was located at Liberia Institute for Biomedical Research (LIBR), where it is now accommodated in 21 rooms.The issues of competent human resource, lab supplies and equipment, have to be dealt with, said Mr. Sahr, adding that there has been a significant improvement in lab systems in the area of human resource, good capacity building and laboratory structure and technology. The NDRL Director said the Ministry of Health has demonstrated its commitment to improving the health sector because it is a priority.He noted that the Global Health Security Agenda’s five-year strategic plan for Liberia will help strengthen the health system.However, he called for resource mobilization for implementation, noting, “The Ebola outbreak taught us many lessons.” The Country Representative of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Alex Gasasira, pledged his entity’s commitment to Liberia in its endeavors to build a good public health sector.For her part, Ms. Candace Eastman, CEO of Africabio Enterprises Inc, said “Focusing on clinical laboratory is long overdue in Liberia. Let us ensure that beyond Ebola, we can begin to prioritize diagnostics. It cuts across every area of medicine and impacts the status of our healthcare system on the overall.”“This conference,” Ms. Eastman added, “not only provides allied health professionals with the tools they need to start to increase supply and demand in this arena; it also sets a stage to promote the creation of jobs in healthcare.”The Africabio’s Chief Executive Officer said, “Africabio wants to promote public-private-partnerships where there is value for all stakeholders, from the Ministry of Health to vendors, researchers and private companies that can leverage this experience to ultimately improve labs here for all Liberians.”Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)