Jakarta. Indonesia should soon be able to produce up to two million polymerase chain reaction test kits per month and reduce the country's dependency on imported kits as the government continues to try to ramp up capacity to trace and test people who have contracted Covid-19.
"We've reported to the president that Indonesia can now produce its own PCR test kits," Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Culture Affairs Muhadjir Effendy said after meeting President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo on Monday.
Lack of testing supplies and manpower has undermined the government's effort to ramp up its Covid-19 testing capacity.
The world's fourth most populous country currently only tests less than one person for Covid-19 for every 1,000 of its population.
In that regard, Indonesia is only above Myanmar and Nigeria among 85 countries that disclose their Covid-19 testing statistics, according to data from research institute Ourworldindata.org.
It was only last week that the Health Ministry was finally able to consistently conduct more than 10,000 tests per day, weeks after Jokowi had set the target.
The government now wants to do 20,000 tests per day with Health Ministry officials confident of increasing the country's testing capacity to 30,900 tests per day.
Minister Muhadjir said Indonesia would soon no longer need to rely on imported test kits from China and South Korea – the country's two main suppliers.
"We can produce the PCR test kits independently in Indonesia," Muhadjir said.
State-controlled vaccine producer Bio Farma in Bandung already has the capacity to produce 50,000 PCR test kits per week, the minister said.
"If it can double production to two million a month, that would be enough to cover what we need," Muhadjir said.
The minister said Bio Farma has been working with the Public Works and Housing Ministry to repurpose the Avian Flu Laboratory in Bandung to make the PCR test kits.
Bio Farma's PCR test kits are based on a prototype developed by Indonesian startup Nusantics.
East Ventures-backed Nusantics' test kit development was part of an initiative by the Covid-19 Research and Technology Innovation Task Force (TFRIC19), which was established by the Technology Assessment and Application Agency (BPPT).