Jakarta. President Joko Widodo has urged a further reduction in polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test cost amid mounting pressures from air passengers who are obliged to undergo the Covid-19 diagnostic test.
The president wanted PCR test cost to be reduced to Rp 300,000 ($21) and that the diagnostic results are valid for three days, a senior minister said on Monday.
The government has no intention to scrap PCR test requirement for air travelers in the near future. Instead, it will be expanded to land and sea transports when necessary, Chief Investment Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said in a news conference.
“PCR test requirement will be implemented in other modes of transportation ahead of Christmas and Year-end holidays,” Luhut said.
“We learn from other countries that loosened their community restrictions and health protocols only to see an uptick in new cases despite having a higher vaccination rate than us,” he added.
It was the second time in the last two months that the government intervenes in the making of Covid-19 test tariff. A PCR test could cost up to Rp 1.5 million before the president stepped in and put the ceiling at Rp 550,000 in August.
His main reason at that time was to increase the number of diagnostic tests across the country and curb the spread of the virus.
But as new cases have been in a steady decline since early October and travel restrictions were largely lifted, more and more travelers are complaining about the mandatory PCR test that significantly adds their trip costs.
Health Ministry spokeswoman Siti Nadia Tarmizi said earlier the current Covid-19 situation has significantly improved to the June 2020 level and the government cannot afford to see a new wave of infections.
PCR test requirement is regarded as a means to restrict people’s mobility and prevent the risk of a surge in new cases, she said on Sunday.
The cheaper antigen test cannot accurately detect the Delta variant and has in many cases produced a “false negative”, she added.