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Jakarta Post

As contagion spreads, Indonesia focuses COVID-19 tests in three worst-hit provinces

  • Arya Dipa

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta and Bandung   /   Wed, March 25, 2020   /   07:44 am
As contagion spreads, Indonesia focuses COVID-19 tests in three worst-hit provinces A taxi driver washes his hands at a public portable sink on Jl. MH Thamrin in Central Jakarta, on March 24, 2020. The Jakarta administration has installed a number of portable sinks to prevent transmission of COVID-19. (JP/Seto Wardhana)

After receiving medical supplies from China, the country is set to hold COVID-19 tests in Jakarta, West Java and Banten, focusing on vulnerable groups including medical workers.

The government had distributed around 125,000 COVID-19 rapid testing kits as of Tuesday, mainly to the three provinces hardest-hit by the pandemic. Jakarta received 100,000 testing kits while West Java has secured 20,000 test kits.

 West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil said the tests in the country’s most populous province would be targeted at cities and regencies around Jakarta and Bandung, where most confirmed cases and deaths have been discovered. The areas include Bogor, Bogor city, Depok, Bekasi, Bekasi city — all part of Greater Jakarta.

“The test is not for all West Java residents. If someone is healthy, has no symptoms and does not work in a high-risk profession, they don’t have to participate in the massive testing. Just stay at home and practice [physical] distancing,” he said.

Read also: Greater Jakarta failing as floodgate to nationwide COVID-19 epidemic

The government has accelerated efforts to fight the pandemic as more cases and deaths are recorded. A total of 686 cases, 55 deaths and 30 recoveries had been recorded as of Tuesday.

The surge in patient numbers has led to a hospital crisis that has taken the lives of doctors and at least one nurse. The Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI) reported as many as eight doctors having died fighting the pandemic.

Iwan Dwiprahasto, a doctor and pharmacology professor at Gadjah Mada University (UGM) medical school, Yogyakarta, passed away on Tuesday after being treated at the Dr. Sardjito General Hospital.

Another doctor, Toni Daniel Silitonga, reportedly died due to exhaustion and heart attack after preparing healthcare facilities and COVID-19 education programs in West Bandung regency in West Java as he was part of the local health agency and COVID-19 task force.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) recorded that, as of Tuesday, Jakarta, West Java and Banten had recorded the most cases, with 424, 60 and 65 respectively.

“The use of the rapid tests will be prioritized for medical workers because they are the most vulnerable to [COVID-19] exposure,” said BNPB head Doni Monardo.

Ridwan said he had identified three vulnerable groups that would be prioritized for the rapid tests. Category A comprises health workers at hospitals handling patients with the disease, persons and patients under surveillance, as well as the patients' family, neighbors and friends. Category B comprises people whose job exposes them to some social interaction and thus are prone to contracting the virus. Category C comprises people suspected of developing symptoms similar to those of COVID-19.

Read also: COVID-19: Inadequate medical supplies take toll on lives of Indonesian medical workers

To assist the medical workers, the government has also distributed hundreds of thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves and hazmat suits to health units across the country.

“The task force has distributed 105,000 pieces of personal protective equipment to a number of provinces, especially on Java given that the island is the most exposed area, especially Jakarta,” Doni said, adding that the agency expected another shipment of 70,000 pieces of protective equipment tomorrow midnight.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has also emphasized that medical workers and their families are priority for the rapid tests.

“I have ordered the health minister to prioritize medical workers and their families. And also persons under surveillance and their families,” he said.

After the arrival of the test kits, the House of Representatives has announced that it would hold testing for all lawmakers and their families. The plan, however, has been rejected by political parties and caused public uproar on social media. (mfp/glh)