The Jakarta Post
The Health Ministry is allowing universities and research agencies to run lab tests for COVID-19, as instructed by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.
The President said during a press conference in Jakarta on Friday afternoon that the ministry could cooperate with, among others, Airlangga University in Surabaya, East Java and the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology in Jakarta in conducting polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.
As of Friday, the government had allowed only one lab run by the ministry’s Health Research and Development Agency to test swab samples of suspected COVID-19 patients.
“I have told the health minister that other labs can run tests,” President Jokowi said.
The ministry's disease control and prevention director general, Achmad Yurianto, confirmed the plan, saying it would be implemented on Monday.
"The lab tests can be done in the environmental, health and technology centers of Airlangga University, the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology and some other facilities. We are conducting job training right now,” Yurianto said.
He added that the government had prepared more than 10,000 coronavirus test kits.
The ministry had previously insisted on working alone and rejected help offered by independent institutions such as Eijkman. The decision, however, was criticized by a number of scientists, who highlighted the importance of involving more people to avoid possible errors.
The effectiveness of the ministry's laboratory has been questioned after a hospital in Semarang, Central Java, and another in Batam, Riau Islands, each reported deaths of suspected COVID-19 patients. Both patients' tests came back negative.
The country confirmed 69 COVID-19 cases on Friday, double the 34 cases identified the previous day. Four of the 69 patients died during isolation. (vny)