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Coronavirus

Indonesia transport minister contracts coronavirus

Sumadi attended cabinet meeting and met Dutch minister on Wednesday

Indonesia's Transport Minister Budi Karya Sumadi during an inauguration of ministers in Jakarta last October.   © Reuters

JAKARTA -- Indonesia's Transport Minister Budi Karya Sumadi has been hospitalized and isolated in Jakarta after he contracted the new coronavirus, a senior government official told a news conference on Saturday.

Sumadi, 63, had been on "the front line and a very important part of containing the impact of COVID-19," said the official at the office of president.

The minister had attended a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, raising fears that the country's leadership has been exposed to the risks of the coronavirus.

On Tuesday, the transportation ministry spokesman said Sumadi was ill due to typhoid fever. But on Wednesday, he was back to work, attending a cabinet meeting led by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo at the presidential office in Jakarta -- and also met with visiting Dutch minister Cora Van Nieuwenhuizen.

A photo of Sumadi and Van Nieuwenhuizen shows the two in close contact, holding a document together.

Sumadi with Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management Cora van Nieuwenhuizen in Jakarta on March 11. (From the Ministry of Transportation website)

Sumadi had visited several regions in Indonesia in the past several weeks, including overseeing the arrangement for 69 Indonesian crew members aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess who arrived back from Japan to Indonesia earlier this month, as well as a site of the China-backed high speed railway project in West Java Province.

The condition of the minister was showing an improvement, said Albertus Budi Sulistya, the deputy head of Gatot Soebroto Hospital.

The government confirmed that minister Sumadi is among 27 new positive cases announced on Saturday. He had been reportedly ill with respiratory problems for the past week.

The world's fourth most populous country added 21 new positive cases on Sunday, bringing the total to 117 with five deaths.

The capital Jakarta will close all schools and ordered remote teaching for at least two weeks starting next week, Gov. Anies Baswedan said Saturday.

Indonesia reported its first case last week, making it one of the last countries in Southeast Asia to do so. It had faced criticism from academics and scientists that a lack of reported cases placed the country at risk of a silent epidemic.

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