Indonesian crew workers from the Viking Orion cruise ship arrive at Tanjung Priok Port in Jakarta on Monday. (Antara Photo/M. Risyal Hidayat)

Indonesia Installs Covid-19 Mobile Labs at Airports, Harbors, Border Checkpoints

BY :MARKUS JUNIANTO SIHALOHO

MAY 12, 2020

Jakarta. The National Disaster Management Agency, or BNPB, is setting up mobile laboratories at airports and seaports around the country to test arrivals for Covid-19

Indonesian citizens stuck overseas, most of them migrant workers, are still being repatriated and the government is worried they might be bringing the coronavirus with them. 

The BNPB says polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing is still the most reliable method to detect Covid-19 cases and labs to perform the test should be available at every entry point to Indonesia. 

Currently, passengers coming through airports and seaports are only subjected to a temperature check, blood-based rapid testing and clinical interview.

BNPB secretary Harmensyah said on Tuesday the agency continues to strive to meet President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's target of 10,000 PCR tests per day.

"The BPPT [Technology Assessment and Application Agency] has developed a mobile BSL2 [biosafety level-2] laboratory capable of performing 262 PCR tests in 24 hours. The agency is working with teams from Gajah Mada University, Airlangga University and Hepatika Mataram to reach 10,000 tests per day," Harmensyah said during a teleconference with the House of Representatives' social and religious affairs committee, Commission VIII.

He said local industries should be involved to help the government produce enough PCR-based test kits.

"We don't have enough test kits or lab technicians. We need to collaborate with local industries to ramp up testing," Harmensyah said.

According to him, tens of thousands of Indonesian citizens are still to return from overseas, most of them cruise ship crew members, students and religious pilgrims.

He said the government wants more aggressive contact tracing to find suspected Covid-19 patients.

"A total of 13,943 cruise ship crew members and of 801 other Indonesian citizens have returned. We're still waiting for 9637 more cruise ship crew members and 448 other citizens to arrive soon," Harmensyah said.

The mobile laboratories are being set up at airports, ports and other entry points to Indonesia. 

When test results come back negative, the returning citizens will be put in self-isolations at dormitories or hotels.

If the results came back positive, the Covid-19 Task Force will send the patients to government isolation facilities at the converted Athletes' Village in Jakarta or on Galang Island in Riau.

"Once they've completed the mandatory [two-week quarantine] at the government-appointed facilities and been declared healthy, they can go home," Harmensyah said.

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