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Jakarta Post

Indonesia starts rapid tests, imports medicines to 'cure' COVID-19, Jokowi says

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, March 20, 2020   /   04:35 pm
Indonesia starts rapid tests, imports medicines to 'cure' COVID-19, Jokowi says President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo talks to journalists at a press briefing in Bogor Palace, West Java on March, 16, 2020. (Antara/Hafidz Mubarak)

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said the government had officially kicked off rapid tests to detect COVID-19 on Friday afternoon.

He went on to say the first tests had been conducted in South Jakarta, considering that the area was very prone to the disease according to contact tracing carried out by the authorities.

“We conducted tests this afternoon, with medical officials visiting residents there [in South Jakarta] door-to-door, from one house to another,” Jokowi said during a press briefing at the Presidential Palace on Friday.

However, the President said the rapid test should be treated as a preliminary detection of whether a person has been infected with the coronavirus.

Read also: Jokowi nixes lockdown, opts for mass testing

The rapid tests are deemed more convenient and can promptly detect whether a specimen has been infected with COVID-19, much more quickly than the PCR test.

The rapid test only requires 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.

In contrast, the regular tests had to be performed in level two biosafety laboratories, since nasal fluid or larynx substances -- in which the virus is contained -- were used as the main specimens.

“The government has also allowed medical laboratories authorized by the Health Ministry to conduct their independent tests in areas deemed prone to the disease,” said Jokowi.

Read also: Indonesian government initiates research to produce COVID-19 vaccine, VP says

The President said the government also planned to import two kinds of medicines proven effective in "curing" the disease, namely Avigan – commonly used to treat COVID-19 patients in Japan – and chloroquine.

As of today, no medicine mentioned by President Jokowi has been clinically proven to cure COVID-19. However, medical personnel in several countries have been using Avigan and chloroquine to treat the disease's symptoms in patients.

“We have imported 5,000 packs of Avigan and are ordering 2 million more. We also have 3 million packs of chloroquine available,” Jokowi said. “Those medicines have been proven to cure COVID-19 in other countries, although no one has discovered the COVID-19 antivirus.” (glh)

Editor's note: The article has been updated to clarify that no medicine mentioned by President Jokowi has been clinically proven to cure COVID-19 as of today.