Indonesia to tighten borders amid coronavirus scare

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Indonesia will tighten entrance requirements for tourists and pilgrims returning from the Middle East, due to a coronavirus outbreak that has killed 112 people since September 2012.

Indonesia’s minister of economy and welfare, Agung Laksono, said during a Jakarta press conference that the government would "improve monitoring at points of entry" and "distribute health alert cards, leaflets and banner installations at entrances to Indonesia, such as airports and seaports."

Warning of the high death toll from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) that has spread to 15 countries across Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, he said that approximately 1.2 million Indonesians live in Saudi Arabia -- from where the virus originates -- while hundreds of thousands of others travel there for pilgrimage yearly. 

"We are interested in protecting our citizens," local media quoted Laksono as saying.

Muslims worldwide travel to Saudi Arabia throughout the year for "Umrah," while over three million pilgrims participate in "Hajj" -- expected to fall between October 2-7 in 2014.

MERS, for which no known cure is available, destroys the lungs and kidneys. It is presumed that long-term physical contact can lead to infection.

Elsewhere, a 60-year-old Egyptian woman suspected of infection with the virus died in the early hours of Monday. She had suffered MERS-like symptoms days after returning from Saudi Arabia.

A 61-year old Indonesian living in Saudi Arabia died from MERS in late April.

*Maissa al-Seidi contributed to this story from Cairo

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