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Jakarta Post

Indonesia to set price ceiling for COVID-19 swab tests

  • Ghina Ghaliya
    Ghina Ghaliya

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, September 9, 2020   /   06:05 pm
Indonesia to set price ceiling for COVID-19 swab tests Medical staff get ready to take swab samples during free polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing held by state-owned Bank Negara Indonesia in South Tangerang, Banten, on Aug. 30. Some 750 residents were tested in the event. (JP/Dhoni Setiawan)

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) will assist the Health Ministry in setting a price ceiling for COVID-19 swab tests following numerous complaints over the high prices set for the tests in many private facilities.

BNPB acting deputy for emergency response Dody Ruswandi said on Wednesday that private health facilities had set considerably high prices to profit from polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

The price for the agency's PCR tests has been set at a maximum Rp 500,000 (US$ 33.7) in some 300 state-owned laboratories, Dody said in a hearing with the House of Representatives Commission VIII overseeing disasters and social affairs.

“It’s very expensive in private laboratories because they are commercial and they have set their margins too high. We’re currently preparing a standard price. The BNPB head will recommend the maximum price to the Health Minister," Dody told lawmakers in the hearing.

Dody said the BNPB would recommend that private laboratories and hospitals follow the agency's baseline price of below Rp 500,000 and add it to a reasonable profit margin.

National COVID-19 task force chief Doni Monardo, who also chairs the BNPB, said during a hearing with the commission on Sept. 3 that several hospitals charged more than Rp 2.5 million for PCR tests. 

Therefore, he said, it was important to set a price ceiling for such tests.

"In setting the standard price, we don’t want private laboratories to experience losses, but we also don’t want the public to spend that much for PCR tests. So, we will also involve the BPKP [Development Finance Comptroller] in doing this,” Doni said.

He went on to say that the BNPB had distributed millions of reagents for PCR tests across the country so that they could provide swab testing for free. 

“We’ve provided free tests to 51 percent of the people who have taken swab tests,” he said.

As of Sept. 9, Indonesia has tested a total of 2.5 million swab samples from 1.4 million people. The country has recorded 203,342 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 8,336 deaths so far.