Indonesian minister tests positive for coronavirus

Jakarta (AFP) –


Indonesia's transport minister is in intensive care after testing positive for the novel coronavirus, an official said Saturday, as schools and tourist attractions were ordered to close over the health threat.

Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi was receiving treatment at an army hospital in Jakarta, according to State Secretary Pratikno.

A hospital spokesman said Sumadi was encountering difficulty breathing but that his condition was improving.

Pratikno said Sumadi was involved in virus mitigation efforts, particularly the evacuation of Indonesians from epicenters of the outbreak, and that President Joko Widodo had called for tests to be carried out on other ministers.

Cases of the virus in Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country, have jumped from zero two weeks ago to 96, with five deaths, according to government spokesperson Achmad Yurianto.

He also said the virus has spread outside Greater Jakarta to Bandung in West Java, Solo in Central Java, Manado in North Sulawesi, Pontianak in West Kalimantan, as well as holiday havens Yogyakarta and Bali.

Following the increase, the government on Saturday established a task force on COVID-19 mitigation.

Jakarta's Governor Anies Baswedan announced that schools would close for two weeks starting Monday, and ordered the closure of city-owned tourist attractions, such as Ragunan Zoo and Ancol beach.

He emphasized that Jakarta would not be locked down but urged people "to be responsible" and called for social distancing when possible.

Similarly, the administration of Solo, Central Java, Friday announced that schools and tourist attractions would close after a coronavirus patient died in the region.

The World Health Organization has said it is particularly concerned about high-risk nations with weaker health systems, which who may lack the facilities to identify cases.

A day after declaring the coronavirus outbreak to be pandemic this week, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called Indonesia's president Widodo and both agreed to "scale up cooperation."