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Jakarta Post

Rapid testing, disinfection only work if mobility strictly limited: UI Medical School dean

  • Ivany Atina Arbi
    Ivany Atina Arbi

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, March 27, 2020   /   06:03 pm
Rapid testing, disinfection only work if mobility strictly limited: UI Medical School dean Workers spray disinfectant at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, Jakarta, on March 26. (JP/Seto Wardhana)

The dean of the University of Indonesia's Medical School, Ari Fahri Syam, has suggested that all other efforts in containing the spread of the novel coronavirus, such as disinfectant spraying and rapid testing, hinge on the reduced mobility of the population.

He reiterated the need for a lockdown to contain the outbreak. "There have been people, including former vice president Jusuf Kalla, who have suggested a lockdown. This is not a new idea. The key is, when a pandemic happens, we try to limit people's movements," he said.

"If these people consistently stay at home after the disinfection, then the effort will be effective. This will not be the case if they still go in and out of potentially infectious areas," Ari said on Friday, during an online press conference on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Friday's press conference also addressed public concern about the effectiveness of the rapid mass testing currently taking place in selected areas in the country, particularly in the COVID-19 "red zones" like the capital Jakarta and its neighboring province of West Java.

Among those prioritized to get tested are health workers and people with contact history with coronavirus-infected persons, as previously instructed by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.

Ari explained that some of the rapid test results might come back negative as the virus was still possibly in the "window period", or the time between infection and when lab tests can identify the infection.

"People having contact history with suspected COVID-19 cases or patients who have yet to test negative should still impose the two-week self-quarantine," he stressed.

It was essential to limit people's mobility during the rapidly escalating health crisis to flatten the infection curve, Ari added.

The country continuously reported dozens of new positive cases every day in the past week. On Friday, it reported 153 new cases, totaling 1,046 accumulative cases with 87 deaths.

Earlier, the Medical Professors Council at the medical school released a statement on Thursday for the government to order a lockdown, especially in areas where the spread had been fast like in Jakarta and Surabaya, East Java, because suggestions to engage in physical distancing were not effective enough to make people stay at home.

A panel of experts also recommended a lockdown in Jakarta to the President on March 16.