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Jakarta Post

COVID-19: Indonesia claims daily testing capacity increase to 12,000

  • Budi Sutrisno

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, April 24, 2020   /   12:46 pm
COVID-19: Indonesia claims daily testing capacity increase to 12,000 Medical workers take swab samples from people inside their cars for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests to determine COVID-19 infections at Diponegoro National Hospital in Semarang, Central Java, on Wednesday. The facility is lauded as the first drive-thru PCR test station in the province. (Courtesy of Central Java Provincial Public Relations/-)

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi has claimed that the central government increased its COVID-19 testing capacity to 12,000 per day, showing a wide discrepancy with the data provided by the Health Ministry.

“The capacity of active laboratories to conduct tests has significantly increased. The capacity of testing has increased up to 12,000 per day. I repeat, the capacity of testing has increased up to 12,000 per day,” Retno said at a press conference on Thursday.

Retno said she received the data from the COVID-19 task force, which is led by National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) head Doni Monardo, who was not immediately available for comment when contacted by The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

The Health Ministry reported that from April 1 until Thursday, Indonesia had tested 48,647 people in 43 laboratories, with a total of 59,935 specimens, with some people having been tested several times using different types of specimens.

The data, however, showed an increase of only 1,286 people from the cumulative number of 47,361 tested as of Wednesday, or an increase of 4,203 specimens from a total 55,732 as of the previous day.

The Health Ministry’s daily reports have also shown that Indonesia has been testing only about 1,000 to 2,000 new samples per day over the past weeks, with an exception of 7,111 samples on April 12.

Read also: With limited testing capability, Indonesia may battle COVID-19 blindfolded

Although Retno did not clarify whether the number was related to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or rapid testing, the Health Ministry later confirmed that the central government had only been collecting the data on PCR tests.

“The provincial governments have the authority to conduct and record the rapid tests. We don’t calculate rapid tests because we don’t report them to the World Health Organization,” the ministry’s disease control and prevention director general, Achmad Yurianto, told the Post.

Yurianto claimed he was not aware of Retno’s report at the press conference, saying that he would check her statement before giving further response.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo previously called for 10,000 PCR tests per day, especially in the epicenter regions of the outbreak, to give clearer data on cases in the country. The government has also targeted conducting 12,000 to 15,000 rapid tests per day, nationwide.

Experts have attributed low testing capacity to the high death rate from COVID-19 in Indonesia, while some suspect some had died without being tested or while waiting for test results to become available. 

Jakarta has buried 1,000 people according to COVID-19 health protocols as laboratories battle a backlog in testing for people under monitoring (ODP) and patients under surveillance (PDP).