The Jakarta Post
The government is mulling the possibility of conducting rapid tests for COVID-19 in laboratories across the country to speed up efforts to detect the spread of the coronavirus.
“During a meeting with the Health Ministry this morning, we agreed to study the possibility of performing rapid tests across the country as they could provide faster results,” Health Ministry Disease Control and Prevention Director General Achmad Yurianto said on Wednesday.
Authorities are looking at the plan after other countries also changed their testing methods from regular COVID-19 tests to rapid tests, he said. However, it is still unclear when the rapid testing kits will be available in the country.
He explained that rapid tests only required blood serum as a sample, meaning the tests could be performed at all health laboratories across the country. Everyone, whether they have shown COVID-19 symptoms or not, could undergo the test.
The testing method is easier to implement, as the regular tests had to be performed in level two biosafety laboratories, as nasal fluids or larynx substances were used as as the main specimens.
However, a major drawback to the rapid tests is that they can only be performed if immunoglobulin samples from COVID-19 patients are available. The substances, he said, were needed as a comparison.
“We also need immunoglobulin samples from people who have been infected with the virus for at least a week,” Yurianto said. “Without them, the rapid tests would be useless."
Indonesia confirmed 55 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to 227. The government also announced there had been 19 fatalities from the disease, higher than the number of recovered patients to date at 11.
Yurianto also said on Wednesday that the government had authorized three private clinical laboratory chains that could be used for COVID-19 tests: Siloam, Kalbe Farma and Bunda Group.
“This is a good news for us, so we can promptly detect any confirmed cases of the disease in the country,” he said.
Previously, the Jakarta-based Health Research and Development Agency was the only laboratory authorized by the government to conduct COVID-19 tests.
As of Tuesday, 12 laboratories were permitted to conduct the tests, as stipulated in Health Ministerial Decree No. 01/2020. (glh)