The Jakarta Post
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has called on the Health Ministry and the COVID-19 task force to improve and accelerate polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing and mass rapid testing across the country.
“I have asked for people at high risk, doctors and their families, people under monitoring and patients under surveillance be prioritized in the PCR and rapid testing,” Jokowi said during a limited meeting on Monday.
“We should accelerate the examinations in laboratories, so we can detect [COVID-19] cases faster,” he added.
COVID-19 task force chief Doni Monardo said his team had handed Rp 14 billion (US$848,000) to the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology in Jakarta, one of the research agencies conducting lab tests for COVID-19.
“We hope the Eijkman Institute can quickly increase its capacity to conduct examinations,” Doni, who also heads the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), said after the meeting with Jokowi.
In addition to conducting PCR swab tests, the government is also attempting to gain a clearer picture of the coronavirus spread through rapid testing, and has so far distributed some 400,000 rapid testing kits to regions across the country, with priority given to the hardest-hit areas such as Greater Jakarta.
A number of regional administrations have record hundreds of coronavirus cases using rapid testing kits over past few days, although experts warn they are less accurate than PCR tests.
The Jakarta administration has recorded 589 positive cases from the 24,015 people who have undergone rapid tests as of Monday.
West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil has said that of the 22,000 rapid tests conducted using blood samples in at least 27 regencies and cities, 677 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in the province.
The official figure includes only cases confirmed using PCR tests, with Indonesia recording 2,491 confirmed cases and 209 deaths as of Monday.
Those who have tested positive for coronavirus using rapid tests could be required to go into immediate isolation, but still need to undergo PCR screening to confirm their status.
In addition to testing kits, the government has distributed some 390,000 units of personal protective equipment (PPE) to regions across the archipelago with 105,000 more to be distributed soon.
Jokowi said during Monday’s meeting that authorities needed to supervise the distribution of PPE to ensure it arrived at hospitals.
“We will prioritize distribution to regional hospitals,” Doni said, adding that the government would also focus on deploying volunteers to regional hospitals that lacked medical personnel.