JAKARTA - Indonesian airports are tightening their screening process for travellers arriving from Singapore after the city state reported its first case of monkeypox, by installing thermal scanners.
Singapore reported last week that it had identified a case of the rare monkeypox virus in a Nigerian man. The man has been hospitalised in an isolation ward to prevent the virus from spreading. Twenty-two other people he had been in contact with are also being kept in isolation and show no signs so far of having caught the infection.
State-owned airport operator PT Angkasa Pura II (AP II), which oversees airports in western Indonesia, said it was cooperating with the port health office (KKP) to heighten monitoring at its 13 international airports.
"One of the ways is by installing thermal scanners at airports. If they identify suspected patients, necessary measures will be taken," AP II vice president for corporate communication Yado Yarismano told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday (May 15).
One of AP II's international airports is the Sultan Syarif Kasim (SSK) II International Airport in Pekanbaru. KKP Pekanbaru installed a thermal scanner at the arrival gate of the airport on Sunday to detect any cases of monkeypox.
KKP Pekanbaru head Syarifuddin Saragih said the thermal scanner had been installed to check the 50 to 100 people that arrived daily on direct flights from Singapore.
"Travellers from Singapore can potentially be infected by the monkeypox and spread it here," he said.
Mr Syarifuddin added that so far no passengers had been found to be carrying the virus.
Although Indonesia's Health Ministry has given no instructions to tighten monitoring, Mr Syarifuddin said his office would continue scanning passengers from Singapore until the situation was declared safe.
State-owned operator PT Angkasa Pura I (AP I), which oversees airports in central and eastern Indonesia, will also coordinate closely with the KKP and the Health Ministry to prevent the spread of the virus, including by setting up thermal scanners at its international airports, spokesman Awaluddin said.
Monkeypox is a rare viral disease that emerged in remote parts of central and west Africa in the 1970s. Symptoms in humans include lesions, fever, muscle aches and chills. Although considered milder than smallpox, the disease can be fatal.
Before Singapore, human cases had been found only in the United States in 2003 and the United Kingdom and Israel last year.
Indonesian Health Ministry's Disease Control and Prevention Director General Anung Sugihantono said the virus spread through direct contact with infected blood or other bodily fluids or with infected animals. Human cases are very rare.
"There have been no human cases reported in Indonesia," he said.
The Batam city administration also set up thermal scanners on Saturday at five international seaports, namely Batam Centre, Citra Tritunas, Sekupang, Marina and Nongsa Point Marina, which directly connect the city with Singapore.
According to the Batam Immigration Office, 3.3 million people arrived at the five ports last year, including one million Singaporeans and 700,000 people of other nationalities.
If passengers are found to have symptoms of the virus, KKP officers will refer them to the Batam Free Trade Zone Hospital and Embung Fatimah Public Hospital, which the administration has assigned as the main treatment providers for suspected monkeypox patients.
Batam Health Agency head Tjeptjep Yudiana said the monitoring of passengers from Singapore would continue until the 22 people in isolation in Singapore were declared free of monkeypox.
"The incubation period is 21 days, which will be at the end of this month, so we will wait until then to decide our next step," Mr Tjeptjep told the Post.
He said that so far, the KKP had not detected any people with monkeypox at the ports. The agency has not issued a travel warning following the report, he added.