Indonesia Starts Human Trials Of China-Made COVID-19 Vaccine

Employees work on the production line of COVID-19 coronavirus vaccines at the Bio Farma Pharmacy, which will produce the vaccine early next year with a production capacity of 250 million vaccines a year, in Bandung, West Java on August 12, 2020. – Indonesia on August 11 launched human trials of a Chinese-made coronavirus vaccine with some 1,600 volunteers slated to take part in the six-month study. Bay ISMOYO / AFP.

 

Indonesia on Tuesday launched human trials of a Chinese-made coronavirus vaccine with some 1,600 volunteers slated to take part in the six-month study.

The vaccine candidate, produced by Sinovac Biotech, is among just a few in the world to enter Phase 3 clinical trials, or large-scale testing on humans — the last step before regulatory approval.

The treatment, known as CoronaVac, is already being tested on 9,000 health workers in Brazil, the second-hardest-hit country in the coronavirus pandemic after the United States.

Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, has been struggling to contain its mounting virus cases, with more than 127,000 confirmed infections and over 5,700 deaths.

But the true scale of the public health crisis is believed to be much bigger, given the Southeast Asian nation’s low testing rates.

The governor of Indonesia’s most populous province, West Java, was among 1,620 volunteers slated to take part in clinical testing, which was set to wrap up in February.

If the vaccine proves safe and effective, Indonesian officials said, there were plans to produce up to 250 million doses for the sprawling archipelago of nearly 270 million, although they gave few details of the tentative roll-out.

On Tuesday, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo toured a factory in Bandung city, operated by state-owned pharmaceutical firm Bio Farma, where production would begin.

“Once again I want to highlight that the COVID-19 threat will not end until all people in Indonesia are vaccinated,” Widodo said ahead of the tour.

AFP

Women Flogged For Online Pimping In Indonesia

This file photo taken on December 10, 2019 shows the first female flogger preparing to whip a woman in public, in Banda Aceh, after she was caught in close proximity with a man who is not her husband in a hotel. Two Indonesian women have been publicly whipped nearly 100 times each for selling sex workers’ services online, an official in the country’s conservative Aceh province said Tuesday. (AFP/CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN)

 

 

Two Indonesian women have been publicly whipped nearly 100 times each for selling sex workers’ services online, an official in the country’s conservative Aceh province said Tuesday.

Aceh, at the tip of Sumatra, is the only region in Muslim-majority Indonesia to impose Islamic sharia law, which allows flogging for a range of offences including prostitution, gambling, adultery, drinking alcohol, and gay sex.

The punishment was handed down Monday in Langsa city where dozens gathered to watch the pair get lashed, despite bans on crowds over coronavirus fears.

Neither of the women wore disposable face masks, unlike in some other recent whippings.

The two hijab-wearing suspects were arrested in March along with five sex workers, who could also face a flogging if found guilty of violating Islamic law, said Aji Asmanuddin, head of Langsa’s Islamic sharia agency.

“They were punished for violating sharia by advertising (sex) through the internet,” Asmanuddin said.

Officials were struggling to crack down on the area’s booming online sex trade, he added.

“This is the first (pimping) case in Langsa although we believe there are many of them out there,” Asmanuddin said.

“We just don’t have the necessary tools to monitor them online.”

Rights groups have slammed public caning as cruel, and Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has called for it to end.

But the practice has wide support among Aceh’s mostly Muslim population.

Four Soldiers Killed In Indonesia Helicopter Crash

The wreckage of an Indonesian military Mi-17 helicopter is seen at a crash site in Kendal on June 6, 2020. STR / AFP

 

Four soldiers were killed and five others were injured after a helicopter crashed during a training exercise on Indonesia’s Java island on Saturday, an army official said.

The men were in the middle of a flying lesson when the MI-17 helicopter crashed and caught fire in central Java province.

“The incident killed four crew members and injured five others,” said Nefra Firdaus, Indonesian Army spokesman, in a statement.

The injured were evacuated and taken to hospital.

Firdaus said that prior to the accident the helicopter had undergone a pre-flight check and was found to be in good condition.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation.

AFP

Indonesia Pulls Out Of Annual Mecca Pilgrimage Over COVID-19 Fears

Health officials observe health protocols at an emergency installation at a hospital in Surabaya, East Java, on May 29, 2020, amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Juni Kriswanto / AFP.

 

Indonesia is pulling out of the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca over coronavirus fears, the religious affairs ministry said Tuesday, removing the largest contingent of worshippers.

More than 220,000 people from the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country were set to take part in this year’s hajj, which all Muslims must perform at least once in their lives if able.

The global pandemic has plunged the ritual into doubt, but Riyadh has yet to announce a final decision on whether it will go ahead with the end-of-July celebration.

On Tuesday, Indonesia said it was pulling out of the pilgrimage, which last year drew about 2.5 million Muslims to Saudi Arabia from across the globe.

“This was a very bitter and difficult decision,” religious affairs minister Fachrul Razi told a televised press briefing.

“But we have a responsibility to protect our pilgrims and hajj workers.”

Last month, Indonesia pressed Riyadh to announce its decision and President Joko Widodo later held a telephone call with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on the matter, Razi said.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Deaths In Russia Surpass 5,000

Jakarta had considered allowing half the usual number of pilgrims to travel in order to limit the risk, but instead opted to keep them all at home, he added.

The hajj is a key revenue earner for the kingdom but risks becoming a major source of contagion if millions flock to Mecca’s religious sites.

Indonesia’s decision was a disappointment for some who have been on a pilgrimage waiting list for years.

“I knew this was a possibility, but now that it’s official I can’t help but be heartbroken — I’ve been waiting for years,” 37-year-old civil servant Ria Taurisnawati told AFP as she sobbed.

“All my preparations were done, the clothes were ready and I got the necessary vaccination. But God has another plan,” she added.

AFP

Indonesia Economy Sees Weakest Growth In Almost Two Decades

Chinese tourists wearing facemasks as a preventative measure following a coronavirus outbreak which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan, walk after arriving from Nusa Penida at the fast boat pier in Serangan island in Denpasar, on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali on January 27, 2020. SONNY TUMBELAKA / AFP.

 

Indonesia’s economy grew in the first quarter at its slowest pace for almost two decades, and economists warned Tuesday the coronavirus crisis would likely deal an even greater blow in the next three months.

The news comes as governments around the world struggle to contain the deadly disease, which has essentially shut down the global economy, which is expected to fall into recession this year.

Southeast Asia’s biggest economy grew 2.97 percent in January-February, the worst rate since 2001 and well short of the 5.07 percent in the same period last year. It also missed forecasts of four percent expansion, while marking a contraction of 2.41 percent from the previous quarter.

Statistics agency chairman Suhariyanto, who goes by one name, said in a virtual news conference: “No countries are immune to the COVID-19. Whether developed or developing countries, they were hit badly by the virus and Indonesia is no exception.”

READ ALSO: Kenya Demands Probe As Plane Crash Kills 6 Over Somalia

The statistics agency pointed to a severe hit to the key tourism sector, saying only 2.6 million visitors went to Indonesia in the three months, down a third on-year.

And analysts warned of more pain ahead.

“GDP growth in Indonesia held up better than elsewhere in the first quarter, at least according to the official figures, but we doubt this resilience will last”, warned Capital Economics in a note.

“Indonesia was later than other countries to lock down its economy, meaning more of the hit will have fallen in the second quarter,” it said, adding that it expects a “large contraction” in April-June.

Officials have cut their official growth forecast to 2.3 percent for this year, from a previous estimate of 5.3 percent, and said it could even suffer a contraction under a worst-case scenario

Indonesia has banned domestic train, air and sea travel until June 1 in an effort to contain the spread of the virus, which has infected more than 11,000 people and killed 864 in the country. However, the toll is widely believed to be much higher as it has one of the lowest testing rates in the world.

The ban on sea travel could hamper the movement of millions in a country of some 17,000 islands where passenger ferries are a key mode of transportation.

The government had already called on residents of major cities, including the capital Jakarta, to stay put.

AFP

COVID-19: Trump To Sell Ventilators To Developing Countries To Fight Virus

FUS President Donald Trump speaks at a press conference on COVID-19, known as the coronavirus, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, March 13, 2020. Trump is declaring coronavirus a national emergency. SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

President Donald Trump’s administration said Friday it would sell ventilators to at least four developing countries to fight the coronavirus, saying US needs were being met.

Trump said he spoke by telephone to the presidents of Indonesia, Ecuador, El Salvador and Honduras and promised that the United States would send the vital medical equipment.

“We will be sending them desperately needed Ventilators, of which we have recently manufactured many, and helping them in other ways,” Trump wrote on Twitter of his call to President Lenin Moreno of Ecuador, which has seen a spike in coronavirus cases.

Michael Kozak, the top US diplomat for Latin America, confirmed the United States was selling the ventilators.

“We’re seeing our own needs met; we can become an exporter again,” Kozak told reporters.

“I think in many of these cases that the countries just want to buy them. They aren’t asking us for financing,” he said.

But Kozak said some countries may use assistance from the United States to make the purchases.

Governors led by New York’s Andrew Cuomo said they were seriously short of ventilators at the start of the pandemic and had faulted the federal government.

But Cuomo last week said New York would send ventilators to Michigan and Maryland as the situation had stabilized in his own state — the worst-hit by the pandemic that has killed more than 50,000 people in the United States.

With companies such as Ford and General Motors switching to ventilator production, Trump has boasted that the country as a whole is in good shape and said foreign leaders were asking him for supplies.

“No country is equipped like we are. We have 11 different places making ventilators,” Trump told reporters Thursday.

“Our country, as you know, doesn’t need them now. Our governors are very happy,” Trump said.

In his tweets, Trump praised Honduras and El Salvador for helping curb emigration to the United States — a signature issue for the mogul-turned-president.

Guatemala is also a major source of migrants but has temporarily stopped accepting deported citizens from the United States due to coronavirus infections.

Kozak said that Guatemala — not mentioned in Trump’s tweets on ventilators — was not being punished.

“There isn’t some hard linkage here between cooperation on removals and ventilators. We’re trying to get medicine and medical supplies to anybody who needs them”

Indonesia Bans Air, Sea Travel Until June Over COVID-19 Fears

Hospital kitchen workers clad in full PPE deliver meals to COVID-19 coronavirus patients at an isolation section of Bogor general hospital in Bogor, West Java on April 23, 2020. ADITYA AJI / AFP
Hospital kitchen workers clad in full PPE deliver meals to COVID-19 coronavirus patients at an isolation section of Bogor general hospital in Bogor, West Java on April 23, 2020.
ADITYA AJI / AFP

 

Indonesia will ban all air and sea travel until June, officials said Thursday, in an apparent effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus during the holiest period on the Islamic calendar. 

The temporary ban takes effect Friday, the first day of the fasting month of Ramadan for the Muslim-majority country, and lasts until June 1.

It comes a day after the government, fearing an explosion in virus cases, banned the annual exodus for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of Ramadan, when millions travel to their hometowns and ancestral villages.

The latest measure will not apply to emergency, diplomatic or cargo transport, the government said.

The repatriation of Indonesian citizens from abroad and foreigners living in the Southeast Asian archipelago will also be exempt.

“It applies to both domestic and international commercial travel but there are some exceptions,”  Transportation Ministry spokeswoman Adita Irawati told AFP.

The country’s biggest airlines Garuda and Lion Air had already scaled backed their commercial flights as the tourism market shrivelled up.

But the ban on sea travel could hamper the movement of millions in a country of some 17,000 islands where passenger ferries are a key mode of transportation.

The government had already called on residents of major cities, including the capital Jakarta, to stay put.

As of Thursday, Indonesia had confirmed 7,775 cases of COVID-19 and 647 deaths.

But the toll is widely believed to be much higher in a country with one of the lowest testing rates in the world.

 

AFP

Indonesia Bans Air, Sea Travel Until June Over COVID-19 Fears

Health officials take samples of saliva and nasal fluid from a resident (L) to test for the COVID-19 coronavirus in Tangerang on April 2, 2020. FAJRIN RAHARJO / AFP.

 

Indonesia will ban all air and sea travel until June, officials said Thursday, in an apparent effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus during the holiest period on the Islamic calendar.

The temporary ban takes effect Friday, the first day of the fasting month of Ramadan for the Muslim-majority country, and lasts until June 1.

It comes a day after the government, fearing an explosion in virus cases, banned the annual exodus for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of Ramadan, when millions travel to their hometowns and ancestral villages.

The latest measure will not apply to emergency, diplomatic or cargo transport, the government said.

The repatriation of Indonesian citizens from abroad and foreigners living in the Southeast Asian archipelago will also be exempt.

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“It applies to both domestic and international commercial travel but there are some exceptions,” Transportation Ministry spokeswoman Adita Irawati told AFP.

The country’s biggest airlines Garuda and Lion Air had already scaled backed their commercial flights as the tourism market shrivelled up.

But the ban on sea travel could hamper the movement of millions in a country of some 17,000 islands where passenger ferries are a key mode of transportation.

The government had already called on residents of major cities, including the capital Jakarta, to stay put.

As of Thursday, Indonesia had confirmed 7,775 cases of COVID-19 and 647 deaths.

But the toll is widely believed to be much higher in a country with one of the lowest testing rates in the world.

AFP

Indonesia Frees 18,000 Inmates From Bursting Jails Over COVID-19 Fears

Health officials take samples of saliva and nasal fluid from a resident (L) to test for the COVID-19 coronavirus in Tangerang on April 2, 2020. FAJRIN RAHARJO / AFP.

 

Indonesia has released 18,000 inmates in a desperate bid to stop coronavirus from rampaging through its notoriously overcrowded prison system, authorities said Thursday.

The mass release comes days after the Southeast Asian nation said it would free more than 30,000 inmates to take pressure off prisons and jails beset by unsanitary conditions and long at risk of infectious diseases.

The UN has called on countries to release vulnerable inmates, with Afghanistan last week announcing it would set free some 10,000 prisoners.

“Our target is to release 30,000 inmates in total, but it could end up being more,” said Rika Aprianti, a spokeswoman for the Corrections Directorate General.

“This is part of the plan to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in prisons.”

She offered few details, but a government release order included juvenile offenders and adult prisoners who had served at least two-thirds of their sentences.

READ ALSO: Israel Health Minister Contracts COVID-19, Netanyahu Re-enters Quarantine

Prisoners were advised to self quarantine at home after release.

Among them was Firdaus, a fisherman jailed in 2017 on Sulawesi island for stealing a gold ring.

“I was scared of being infected in prison, not to mention that the guards come and go so we don’t know who they’ve had contact with,” said the 33-year-old, who was set for release in November.

But his relief was tempered by the thought of others still inside.

“I’m not that happy because I left my friends behind,” he said.

Indonesia’s creaking prison system has just 522 institutions for some 270,000 inmates. It suffers from regular jailbreaks and criticism for its often deplorable conditions.

Amnesty International welcomed the release, but called on the government to make sure “prisoners of conscience” and older inmates with health problems were set free.

“They’re vulnerable to COVID-19 and, in the name of humanity, they must be released,” said Amnesty Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid.

“Conditions including a lack of access to clean water and severe overcrowding will be exacerbated by the outbreak.”

AFP

11-Year-Old Indonesian Girl Dies After Contracting Coronavirus

Workers carry a coffin of a victim of the COVID-19 coronavirus during a funeral in Jakarta on March 31, 2020. BAY ISMOYO / AFP.

 

An 11-year-old girl has become Indonesia’s youngest person to die after contracting the coronavirus, officials said Wednesday, as the country’s death toll from COVID-19 nearly tripled from a week ago.

The girl, who was also suffering from dengue fever, was admitted to hospital on Madura Island off the coast of Java on March 19.

She had a fever and breathing difficulties, and died the following day.

Tests only confirmed this week that the girl also had COVID-19.

“Her immune system was quite poor,” said Joni Wahyuhadi, an official at East Java’s virus task force.

“She was battling two illnesses at once so that’s why her condition worsened.”

Indonesia said Wednesday its death toll from COVID-19 had reached 157 — including 11 frontline doctors — compared with 58 a week ago.

READ ALSO: Kyrgyz Health Minister, Vice Premier Sacked Over COVID-19 Response

Infections have more than doubled over the same period to 1,677.

But rates of testing are low and experts fear the true figures are far higher in the country of more than 260 million people.

While the virus is most dangerous for the elderly, there have been a number of cases around the world of younger people dying.

AFP

Thousands Quarantined In Indonesian Complex Over Feared Coronavirus Outbreak


SONNY TUMBELAKA / AF

 

More than 40,000 workers at a vast Chinese-controlled industrial complex in Indonesia have been quarantined over fears about the spread of a deadly coronavirus strain which has killed more than 200 people in China, it said Friday.

PT Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park has sealed off its nickel mining hub on Sulawesi island and is barring any of its 43,000 staff from entering or leaving without written permission.

There are some 5,000 guest workers from mainland China at the sprawling site which hosts nickel ore smelters and stainless steel production.

Employees at the 2,000-hectare (5,000 acre) facility, majority-owned by China’s Shanghai Decent Investment Group, are undergoing medical tests and none has been found to be infected so far, said company spokesman Dedy Kurniawan.

The firm has also imposed a ban on employees or guests from overseas entering the complex and installed thermal scanners at its entrance, he added.

“We have identified and screened foreign workers from Wuhan,” Kurniawan told AFP on Friday.

“We also stopped accepting foreign workers.”

Indonesia has not reported any confirmed infections so far.

Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, is at the centre of the outbreak which is believed to have originated in a market that sold wild animals.

The city of 11 million has since experienced an unprecedented lockdown, preventing residents from leaving in a bid to stop the deadly virus from spreading further.

The lockdown at the Indonesian plant, which started at the weekend, comes as Indonesia said Friday it was preparing to evacuate more than 240 nationals stranded in China near the epicentre of the virus within the next 24 hours.

Indonesia, a Southeast Asian archipelago, attracts more than one million Chinese tourists annually to Bali and other holiday hotspots and also hosts thousands of guest workers from major investor China.

AFP

Flash Floods Kill Nine In Indonesia

Young men wait under a concrete bridge looking to salvage valuable items carried by the currents 
BAY ISMOYO / AFP

 

Flash floods and landslides have killed at least nine people and forced thousands into temporary shelters on Indonesia’s Sumatra island, the local disaster agency said Thursday.

Torrential rain in North Sumatra this week sparked the disaster, with most victims drowning or hit by logs swept away in the current, the agency added.

“We suspect (two victims) were killed after getting hit by logs,” said Safaruddin Ananda Nasution, head of Central Tapanuli’s disaster mitigation agency.

Rampant illegal logging in the area may have contributed to the disaster by loosening the soil and making it susceptible to landslides, he added.

Several thousand residents have fled to shelters.

This month, record rains triggered flooding and landslides that killed nearly 70 people in and around Jakarta, which is on neighbouring Java island.

Entire neighbourhoods in Indonesia’s capital — a megalopolis home to around 30 million people — were submerged in floodwaters that forced tens of thousands into shelters.

The Southeast Asian archipelago is regularly hit by floods during the rainy season, which started in late November.

AFP