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Jakarta Post

Jokowi orders nationwide rapid testing to speed up COVID-19 detection

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, March 19, 2020   /   01:55 pm
Jokowi orders nationwide rapid testing to speed up COVID-19 detection Member of the Indonesia Red Cross sprays a disinfectant solution in a locker room at Sarinah Shopping Center in Jakarta on Tuesday, March 17 (JP/Seto Wardhana)

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has instructed his subordinates to perform rapid tests for COVID-19 across the country in a bid to accelerate detection of the disease.

“I demand rapid tests be carried out across the country for early detection of infection,” Jokowi said during a limited meeting at the State Palace on Thursday. “I also want more test kits to be distributed to medical laboratories and more laboratories [to be prepared] to conduct the tests.”

Rapid tests are easier to perform than regular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and can detect COVID-19 cases quicker.

Rapid tests only require blood serum as a sample, meaning the tests can be performed at all health laboratories across the country. Everyone, whether they have shown COVID-19 symptoms or not, can undergo the test.

The testing method is easier to implement than the regular tests, which must be performed in level two biosafety laboratories, as nasal fluids or larynx substances, which contain the virus, are used as the main specimens.

However, as rapid tests are easier to perform, Jokowi also expected more people to be tested and to be sent to hospitals if found positive. To anticipate a rise in confirmed cases, Jokowi called for hospitals to set up health protocols for handling those who had performed the test.

“Hospitals must determine who can isolate themselves at home and who requires advanced treatment in hospitals,” he added.

During the meeting, he also urged hospitals to prepare contingency plans for if they were overwhelmed by patients. Jokowi said that hospitals could use the athletes apartment complex in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, which can accommodate 15,000 people, and state-owned hotels as emergency wards.

“I am instructing hospitals to form a clear contingency plan while we accelerate construction of the COVID-19 hospital on Galang Island in Riau Islands,” Jokowi said.

On Wednesday afternoon, the government recorded a staggering increase of 55 confirmed cases, bringing the total to 227. The death toll also jumped from five to 19 on Wednesday. (glh)