Dili, Timor-Leste, August 17, 2020 – Timor-Leste Red Cross (CVTL) is urgently ramping up COVID-19 prevention in remote areas bordering Indonesia as the country’s containment success is threatened after its first new case has been reported in more than three months.

While Indonesia has recorded more than 125,000 cases, recently rising by over 2000 each day, Timor-Leste has achieved remarkable success, recording only 24 cases in the country in total and remaining COVID free since late April.

Late last week an Indonesian national tested positive to the virus after entering Timor-Leste via a land border with Indonesia. Timor-Leste’s government responded quickly, declaring a new state of emergency, tightening border restrictions, and reinstating stricter health protocols and bans on gatherings.

Red Cross has further intensified its prevention campaign in the border regions, regarded as the “red zone”, for the transmission of COVID-19. Since the outset of the pandemic, Timor-Leste Red Cross has prioritized this area and its 35 villages and 140 hamlets due to the porous border that allows people to move illegally between the neighboring countries.

Secretary General of Timor-Leste Red Cross, Anacleto Bento Ferreira, said:

“Timor-Leste Red Cross volunteers are reaching out to communities with important hygiene information and awareness raising activities to contain the virus. In disease outbreaks, engaging with and providing timely information to the most exposed communities is the best way to help people protect themselves.”

“Known and trusted in the area, our volunteers are best equipped to reach these remote villages and hamlets, going door to door or sharing information at strategic places like markets and village centres. Where possible, we amplify this through radio messages and social media.”

In addition to the educational campaign, Red Cross has worked with the Ministry of Health to establish quarantine tents in the capital Dili and the border stations between Indonesia and Timor-Leste.

With hygiene a priority, Red Cross has also established more than 80 hand washing facilities in key areas such as government offices, schools and churches and is now working urgently to establish another 80 in border areas.

Jan Gelfand, Head of IFRC’s Country Cluster Support Team for Indonesia and Timor-Leste, said:

“Timor-Leste is one of the few countries in the world that succeeded in containing COVID-19, responding quickly and effectively in dealing with the pandemic at the outset. With the detection of a new case it is important that every effort is made to contain the transmission of COVID-19.” 

“Given that Timor-Leste is a relatively new country, COVID-19 has the potential to place a great deal of pressure on the country’s fragile health care system particularly in remote areas. With its reach down to the village level, CVTL has an important role to play in this effort.”

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