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Jakarta Post

Indonesia late to respond to COVID-19 pandemic, former VP Kalla says

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, March 19, 2020   /   05:33 pm
Indonesia late to respond to COVID-19 pandemic, former VP Kalla says A screen grab of an interview between Najwa Shihab (left) and former Vice President Jusuf Kalla (right), on television show 'Mata Najwa' on Wednesday night. (YouTube/Najwa Shihab)

Former vice president and chairman of the Indonesian Red Cross Jusuf Kalla criticized the government’s slow response to the COVID-19 pandemic and called for mass testing to prevent further spread of the virus.

“Just like several other countries, our initial response to the outbreak was slow. However, in the last few days the government has understood the problem and is acting based on the proper procedures,” he said during an interview on national television show Mata Najwa on Wednesday night.

He also urged the government to ramp up its effort to identify the spread of COVID-19 by conducting mass tests on “hundreds of thousands of people” using rapid test kits.

“We are way off in terms of conducting COVID-19 tests on the public. Therefore, not many people have tested positive for the disease while there is a huge potential [for further infections],” Jusuf said.

Indonesia, the fourth-most-populous country in the world, has only tested 1,592 people, which resulted in 309 people being declared positive according to the Health Ministry’s latest data.

In comparison, South Korea has tested over 290,000 people and identified over 8,000 infections according to Reuters.

While the former VP calls for quick action, bureaucratic red-tape has slowed down the import process for 500,000 COVID-19 rapid testing kits from China by state-owned diversified manufacturer PT Rajawali Nusantara Indonesia.

State-Owned Enterprises Ministry spokesman Arya Sinulingga on Wednesday said the company was still waiting for the Health Ministry to give them clearance to import testing kits from China, despite having submitted the import request on March 10.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo called for widespread nationwide rapid testing on Thursday, but it is unclear when such tests will be available. (mpr)