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Jakarta Post

COVID-19: Indonesia to administer more PCR tests, acknowledges some rapid tests 'ineffective'

  • Dzulfiqar Fathur Rahman

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, April 7, 2020   /   01:26 pm
COVID-19: Indonesia to administer more PCR tests, acknowledges some rapid tests 'ineffective' A doctor shows a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnostic kit for COVID-19 at Pertamina Jaya Hospital's laboratory in Cempaka Putih, East Jakarta, on Monday. (Antara/M Risyal Hidayat)

The country's COVID-19 task force will administer more polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which are believed to be more accurate than rapid tests. 

“It turns out that not all rapid tests are effective,” the task force’s head, Doni Monardo, said during a virtual meeting with the House of Representatives on Monday.

“Thus we will procure more PCR test kits.”

A PCR test detects whether a person has contracted the novel coronavirus by swabbing the nose and throat, while the rapid test detects whether a person has been exposed to the virus through a blood sample. Experts have repeatedly cast doubt over rapid tests, which they claim give less accurate results than PCR tests.

“We will still administer rapid tests but there are consequences,” said Doni. “Rapid tests usually need to be administered more than once. Some people that test negative via the rapid test have tested positive using the PCR method or vice versa.”

Doni, who also heads the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), said separately that the government had disbursed Rp 14 billion (US$849,643) to the Jakarta-based Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology to increase its capacity to conduct PCR testing.

Read also: Carry out proper mass testing with PCR, experts say

President Joko "Jokowi" Jokowi has called on the Health Ministry and the COVID-19 task force to speed up PCR and rapid testing to obtain clear data on confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the country.

The government is expecting the delivery of PCR test kits from South Korea. Seoul’s LG Corp plans to provide 50,000 test kits for Indonesia, according to a press release issued by the Office of the Coordinating Economic Minister on Monday.

Doni said the government had disbursed 500,000 test kits for rapid testing across the country as of Monday. 

Jakarta, the national epicenter of the outbreak, has performed the rapid test on 24,015 people across the province as of Monday. Of them, 589 people returned positive results.

West Java, the second-hardest hit province, found 677 people with COVID-19 from rapid tests performed on 22,000 people in 27 cities and regencies.