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Governor slammed for welcoming Chinese tourists with fanfare, gifts amid coronavirus fears

Jakarta Post - January 27, 2020

Jakarta – West Sumatra Governor Irwan Prayitno has drawn criticism from netizens after amateur video recordings of him welcoming Chinese visitors in a ceremonious fashion, with a large crowd, at the Minangkabau International Airport in Padang recently went viral on Twitter, amid concerns over a domestic coronavirus outbreak.

In a video uploaded on Sunday by Twitter user @dedetsaugia that has been viewed over 2.1 million times and retweeted over 6,000 times at the time of writing, Irwan could be seen addressing the Chinese visitors alongside an interpreter at the airport.

"Please spread good news about [the province] when you return home. We'd also like to apologize for our treatment earlier; it was merely a safety measure," the governor said in the short clip.

In another video uploaded by @black_shadow212, the governor could be seen handing out traditional Minang attributes to the foreign visitors in a welcome ceremony set to the region's traditional music.

The videos have since garnered a stream of strong reactions from netizens who have been on edge since the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei province, in China first made headlines earlier this month. Many have decried the governor's behavior, calling it "reckless" and "cavalier".

"The new coronavirus has an incubation period of between seven to 14 days. So, if we rely on [thermal scanners] at airports and determine that [foreign visitors] do not have a fever and then we welcome them ceremoniously as if they were presidents, therefore, creating a crowd at the airport, the risk [of infection] is greatly increased," @GiaPratamaMD tweeted in response to one of the videos.

As reported by kompas.com, Irwan welcomed the foreign visitors after they were declared healthy in a medical examination conducted with thermal scanners installed at the airport.

He responded to the recent deluge of criticism, saying that the arrival of the Chinese tourists – who were revealed to have come from Kunming city, Yunnan province, around 1,712 kilometers away from Wuhan – had been scheduled prior to news of the coronavirus outbreak in China.

"The arrival of these tourists is expected to increase the number of foreign tourists visiting West Sumatra in the future," Irwan said as quoted by Antara news agency.

"We cannot reject foreign arrivals when they have prepared all the required documentation. We have taken anticipatory measures by conducting a detailed check-up."

Minangkabau International Airport spokesperson Fendrick Sondra confirmed that the foreign tourists had been deemed safe following an examination conducted with thermal scanners.

"Our standard operating procedure requires every passenger to go through thermal scanners due to the coronavirus outbreak. Based on the result, the tourists are safe," Fendrick said.

The Indonesian public has been on high alert in recent weeks amid fears and panic over a possible coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Indonesia has suspended all flights to and from Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus, to prevent an outbreak in the country. The new coronavirus, which bears similarities to the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), has killed 81 people and infected hundreds of others, including in Thailand and Singapore. (rfa)

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/01/27/governor-slammed-for-welcoming-chinese-tourists-with-fanfare-gifts-amid-coronavirus-fears.html