A man stands inside disinfectant chamber in front of Senayan City mall in Central Jakarta on Tuesday. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Improved Covid-19 Testing Capacity Leads to Spike in Cases


JUNE 12, 2020

Jakarta. Improved testing capacity and more aggressive contact tracing have led to a spike in confirmed cases of coronavirus recently, an expert said on Thursday.

Indonesia has seen record numbers of daily cases in the past week, including the highest spike of 1,241 on Wednesday, a day after daily cases hit the 1,000 mark for the first time.


"The figures that we have been observing until today were the result of Indonesia’s improved specimen testing capacity. There are more labs and institutions that get involved in specimen testing,” Wiku Adisasmito, a professor of infectious disease and global health, said in a video conference in Jakarta.

“Moreover, regional governments along with main health facilities have been tracing contacts and searching active cases more aggressively,” the lead expert of the National Covid-19 Task Force said.

Wiku denied that the sudden hike in Covid-19 cases indicated a second wave of transmissions after the country began phased reopening of businesses and public transportation.

The country has been consistently exceeding the initial testing capacity target of 10,000 per day since May 27, prompting President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to double the target earlier this month.

Wiku said the task force was confident that the new target could be exceeded in the near future.

What Indonesia has been doing to improve testing capacity can be both too late and too little, as it took almost three months before it can meet the target of just 10,000 per day in a county of more than 272 million people.

Task force spokesman Achmad Yurianto said separately that so far 288,457 people have taken the Covid-19 testing, although the overall number of specimen testing is put at more than 460,000. Lab technicians may conduct more than one specimen test on one person.

A patient with coronavirus must also undergo testing at least twice before he or she can be declared of having recovered.

Achmad said medical labs took specimens from a lot more sources including small clinics at the community level known as Puskesmas. Previously, Covid-19 testing at labs took specimens from major hospitals only.

“The recent spike in positive cases is due to more aggressive contact tracing. Most of the new cases have come from specimens taken from Puskesmas and the health departments at the district level,” Acmad said.

Improved testing capacity at the regional level means the emergence of new hotspots, including East Java, South Sulawesi and South Kalimantan.

East Java had only around 1,500 confirmed cases on May 10 but on Thursday the province’s total stood at more than 7,100, in comparison to 8,650 cases in Jakarta, the hardest hit by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Jakarta has been past its peak since mid-May and its share in nationwide tally has been reduced from around 50 percent to less than 25 percent.

Indonesia recorded 35,295 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Thursday, including 2,000 deaths and 12,636 recovered cases.