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Jakarta Post

Health Ministry maintains it follows WHO procedures to test for coronavirus

  • Dyaning Pangestika
    Dyaning Pangestika

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, February 14, 2020   /   06:39 pm
Health Ministry maintains it follows WHO procedures to test for coronavirus Head of the Center for Biomedical and Basic Technology Research and Development Vivi Setiawaty wears protective clothing as she enters a Health Research and Development Agency laboratory in Jakarta on Tuesday. (Antara/Galih Pradipta)

As questions begin to be asked about the government’s claim there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, the Health Ministry has maintained that it is following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) testing standards.

Indonesia has not recorded a single confirmed COVID-19 case, despite the high number of Chinese tourists who have visited the country in recent months and the fact that direct flights previously connected Wuhan – the epicenter of the viral outbreak – and several cities in Indonesia.

The death toll in China from the coronavirus epidemic rose to 1,483 on Friday, while more than 64,600 had been infected across the country, AFP reported.

The Health Ministry’s biomedical research center head, Vivi Setiawaty, said her office had followed the WHO’s procedures for examining samples from patients suspected of being infected with the virus.

“Every country in the world tests the samples in level-two biosafety labs. We have not deviated from the guidelines set by the WHO,” Vivi said in a recently issued statement.

She added that the ministry’s biomedical research center was equipped with level-2 and level-3 biosafety laboratories, as well as a biorepository laboratory to store genetic materials and clinical samples from patients. The equipment and staff in the facility have been certified by the UN health body.

Read also: ‘It’s only a model’: Health Ministry dismisses Harvard study on potential coronavirus spread in Indonesia

“Officials from the WHO conduct a quality assurance of our lab every year,” Vivi said.

Vivi explained the three steps the lab took to examine samples from patients. After receiving at least three samples from a patient, staff extract the ribonucleic acid (RNA).

They then mix the acid with reagents to examine it through a process called reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (PCR), in which the scientists use nucleic acid amplification to determine whether the sample contains the coronavirus or its DNA.

The sample will show a sigmoid-curve if it is positive for the coronavirus and a horizontal curve if negative.

The ministry had received 77 samples from 16 provinces across the country as of Thursday. So far, 71 coronavirus samples have tested negative, while the remaining six are still being examined.