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Jakarta Post

Emergency aid from South Korea reaches virus-crippled Indonesia

  • Yunindita Prasidya

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, April 16, 2020   /   03:25 pm
Emergency aid from South Korea reaches virus-crippled Indonesia Medical workers take blood samples during rapid testing for COVID-19 at the Communications and Information Ministry in Jakarta on April 8. (JP/Dhoni Setiawan)

The South Korean public and private sectors are sending donations of medical equipment, protective gear and testing kits to Indonesia to help the country in its battle against COVID-19.

The donations are being channeled through the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) and the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), the spearhead of the country’s COVID-19 response.

Indonesia’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 have jumped from zero to 5,136, with 469 deaths, within one and a half months, as of April 15. Scientists have expressed concern that the nation’s limited testing capabilities and hospital capacity could result in more undetected infections and deaths.

South Korea, meanwhile, has earned praise for its swift response to the COVID-19 pandemic after quickly slowling the rate of infection and deaths. After rapidly establishing testing facilities across the country and imposing physical distancing measures to limit the spread of the virus, the country is now looking to extend help to other countries.

“[…] One of the key factors is the ability of the [South Korean] government to organize massive rapid testing, enabling the government to trace and respond quickly to the spread of the coronavirus,” Coordinating Economic Minister Airlangga Hartato said on April 6.

Read also: Indonesia looks to China, S. Korea for medical supplies

Below is a recap of the help coming from South Korea during these times of crisis.  

Half a million dollars in government aid

The South Korean government has pledged to provide a US$500,000 in-kind grant to Indonesia. Indonesia is also one of the countries South Korean has prioritized for its exports of medical equipment, alongside the United States and the United Arab Emirates, according to Indonesia’s Office of the Coordinating Economic Minister.

“We are also grateful for the South Korean government’s $500,000 in-kind grant to the Indonesian government, which will be used to support the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak,” Coordinating Economic Minister Airlangga Hartarto said on April 6 after a bilateral call with South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee. 

South Korea will ship aid in the form of COVID-19 test kits and rechargeable power sprayers, with 300 ready to be shipped to Indonesia. The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) has been appointed to oversee the shipment.

“A true friend is a friend who remains loyal in times of joy and sorrow,” South Korean Ambassador to Indonesia Kim Chang-beom said during a virtual press conference with the BNPB on April 9, as quoted by kompas.id.

South Korean conglomerates send supplies

South Korean conglomerates LG Group, Hyundai Motor Corporation and CJ Group, which have a strong presence in Indonesia, have also offered support by donating test kits, protective gear, hygiene products and food. 

LG Group will donate around 50,000 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 test kits to Indonesia, with the first batch having arrived on April 5, according to the BKPM. The diagnostic kits were provided by LG Electronics, LG Chem, LG Innotek and LG International Indonesia.

"Here, we can see that LG is not only an investor but also Indonesia's best friend. We certainly hope that the current solid teamwork between Indonesia and South Korea will become stronger," said BKPM spokesperson Tina Talisa.

Read also: LG to donate 50,000 diagnostic test kits to Indonesia from South Korea

Experts consider PCR tests to be more reliable than rapid tests as they can detect the presence of SARS-CoV-2, not just antibodies, which is why PCR testing is recommended in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines. 

However, PCR tests take longer because samples need to be tested in laboratories, while serology testing, or rapid testing, delivers faster results as it can be used like a pregnancy test.  

Hyundai through Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Indonesia (HMMI) has pledged to donate 50,000 sets of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks and coveralls, worth Rp 8.2 billion in stages for medical workers.

The first 10,000 sets were received by the BNPB at a ceremony on April 10 and another 10,000 will be dispatched to West Java, where HMMI operates. HMMI is also exploring the possibility of supporting the implementation of drive-thru COVID-19 testing in Indonesia, Tempo.co reported.

“We really appreciate the medical workers who have fought on the front line to ensure the safety of COVID-19 patients. We hope the PPE aid we have supplied can significantly help medical workers in Indonesia tackle the COVID-19 crisis while also promoting local economic growth,” said Young Tack Lee, president of the Hyundai Motor Asia-Pacific headquarters.

Indonesia has also received a donation of rapid test kits from the CJ Corporation, which operates various businesses from food services to pharmacies to media and entertainment under its local arm CJ Indonesia. 

Read also: South Korean conglomerate donates $255,000 worth of medical equipment to Indonesia

On April 13, CJ Indonesia, which manages bakery franchise Tous Les Jours, donated Rp 4 billion (US$254,000) worth of rapid test kits, hand sanitizer and goods to state-owned hospitals and community health centers, as well as to app-based ojek (motorcycle taxi) drivers.

The donation also included 1,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, 200,000 loaves of bread and 200,000 milk cartons, which will be distributed gradually over the next couple of weeks by the BKPM.