Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin attends a meeting with the House of Representatives' Commission IX, which oversees healthcare and labor issues, on Feb 8, 2021. (Antara Photo/Hafidz Mubarak A.)

Bad UI Suspected Behind Indonesia's Positivity Rate Anomaly


FEBRUARY 18, 2021

Jakarta. Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin has suspected the government's Covid-19 test reporting application's complicated user interface kept laboratories from reporting the complete test data on time, distorting key indicators for assessing the pandemic situation in Indonesia.  

Budi said laboratories prioritized reporting positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results over the negative ones to ensure the infected person can enter isolation as soon as possible, a critical step considering that it was usual for many in Indonesia to wait three to seven days for the result.   

"Because the amount of data is so large and the user interface is complicated, many [laboratories opt to] punch in the positive results first, leaving out many negative results," Budi said in a press conference on Wednesday. 

On the other hand, the laboratories' decision would artificially increase the daily positivity rate — the ratio between positive test results and the total tests conducted on that day. 

Hours after the press conference, the Health Ministry reported a whopping 97 percent positivity rate on Wednesday, with 9,687 out of 9,991 tests turned out positive. That brought the seven-day average positive rate spiked to 40 percent on Wednesday, a level the country has never seen since last April, after steadily rising from 20 percent in the past two months.  


The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a positivity rate of under 5 percent to indicate that a country traces and tests enough suspects to control the pandemic. 

Budi said the ministry is working to improve the user interface for its test-reporting application to make it easier for laboratories, hospitals, and other health facilities to submit reports.

"We think that with more data, including negative results, it will make our positivity rate reflect the real number," Budi said.

The exclusion of negative results may also explain a dramatic drop in the number of daily tests. The rolling seven-day average for the daily test was at 25,533 on Wednesday, down 43 percent from its peak of 44,878 on Jan 29. 

The drop in the number of tests has caused the public to question the country's daily Covid-19 cases number, which has been declining since the beginning of the month. The decline did not square with the fact that the number of Covid-19 suspects continues to increase. There were 83,916 people suspected of having Covid-19 on Wednesday, up 14 percent so far this month, according to the ministry's data.