East Timor: Return of citizens across land border is risk to spread of Covid-19

The return of East Timor citizens from the diaspora, especially across the land border with Indonesia, and possible asymptomatic cases, already in the country, are the greatest risk situations related to Covid-19 in East Timor.

The spokesperson for the Crisis Management Office of Covid-19, Rui Maria de Araújo, explained to Lusa that although commercial flights to Dili are currently suspended, hundreds of people continue to reach the land border that divides the island, with the authorities allowing some groups to enter the territory.

Those who enter are then taken to government quarantine sites.

Rui Araújo said that dealing with this issue raises two alternatives, either to suspend the entry of the citizens across the border for a certain period, to better enable the system or to improve the conditions of compulsory confinement and laboratory examinations for the groups most at risk.

Regardless of the current situation in the country, Rui Araújo said that it is vital for people to adhere to voluntary confinement, to social and physical detachment.

He stressed that several countries no longer have new cases, and as they relaxed they were then taken by surprise by the unexpected resurgence of new cases – as occurred in Japan, Singapore or Macau – and that it is always better to adhere to all preventive measures that are known to all.

He said that at the end of this month the first flight with medical supplies that are being purchased on the international market should arrive in East Timor, namely through a partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

On the major shortcomings of the health system to deal with the disease, Rui Araújo said that among the difficulties are the ability to identify cases through more extensive laboratory tests to groups at higher risk.

Regarding the only confirmed case in East Timor – a citizen detected on 21 March and who is in isolation – Rui Araújo explained that the patient has already been the target of several subsequent tests, which have given a positive result to the disease.

Currently, and according to the most recent data, the authorities have already proven about 45 negative cases, and are waiting for results in four other suspected cases.

Currently, 884 people are in mandatory confinement in structures prepared by the state, with 74 more in self-confinement at home.

A total of 736 people has already completed the process of mandatory quarantine of 14 days, of which 616 in Dili and 119 in the various municipalities.