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Jakarta Post

Lacking supplies, Papua’s biggest lab stops PCR testing

  • Victor Mambor

    The Jakarta Post

Jayapura   /   Fri, July 24, 2020   /   02:55 pm
Lacking supplies, Papua’s biggest lab stops PCR testing A medical worker collects samples during a drive-through polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing simulation in Edogawa, Tokyo, in April. (REUTERS/Issei Kato)

The largest PCR testing lab in Papua has announced that it will stop accepting new samples for COVID-19 testing on July 25 because of a lack of reagent and single-use equipment.

The lab at the Papuan Health Research and Development Agency (Balitbangkes) accounts for more than half of the province’s testing capacity under normal circumstances.

Typically, the Balitbangkes lab, which is managed by the Health Ministry, receives 400 to 500 samples a day. The lab was previously able to test between 300 and 400 samples a day. On Thursday, it received 599 samples and tested 382, accounting for about 60 percent of the 641 samples the province tested using PCR and molecular test (TCM) methods that day.

The head of Balitbangkes in Papua, Antonius Oktavian, said the lab still had about 1,482 samples that had not been tested and that the supply of reagent and single-use equipment, such as pipettes and tubes, was thinning.

Read also: Testing gap across provinces slows down COVID-19 response in Indonesia

“We’re worried that if we keep receiving new samples the new samples will be damaged because we don’t have reagent and other equipment,” he told The Jakarta Post. “If we get new samples, they will certainly have to wait until we finish testing the existing ones,” Antonius said.

He said the agency would accept new samples once it received more testing supplies. “We have requested them from the central government,” he added.

As of July 23, the Papuan provincial government had confirmed 2,720 COVID-19 cases. Of that number, 1,259 patients had recovered and 30 had died. On July 23, the provincial administration reported 68 new confirmed cases in Papua, a different figure than the central government had reported.

Indonesia is now grappling with a gap in testing capacity between Java and the rest of the nation. The country is operating 269 PCR testing laboratories, half of which are located in Java. None of Papua’s 10 labs are currently accepting new samples.