Jakarta. A consortium of Indonesian research agencies and companies began mass producing Covid-19 testing kits this week to cope with domestic shortage during the pandemic and meet the target of at least 10,000 diagnostic tets per day, a state official said on Sunday.
The locally-made rapid testing kits will be available as soon as Friday, when at least 10,000 kits will be distributed across the country, Research and Technology Minister Bambang Soemantri Brodjonegoro said in Jakarta.
But it took longer to develop testing kits using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method, of which the consortium has built only 10 units as prototypes, Bambang said.
The consortium comprises the Technology Assessment and Application Agency (BPPT), Surabaya-based Airlangga University, Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University and state-run medical equipment manufacturer Hepatika.
In a separate project to develop the PCR-based testing kits, the consortium is working with state-run pharmaceutical company Biofarma.
"We thank them for their close cooperation with the Health Ministry’s research and development center in developing rapid diagnostic testing kits and PCR-based testing kits using the strains of viruses from local transmission,” Bambang said in a video conference.
“Development of the rapid testing kits has now entered production stage and by May 8 we will see 10,000 kits ready for distribution,” he added.
By the end of this month, output is expected to reach 50,000 units, he said.
He said the kits were developed using the strains of viruses taken from confirmed Covid-19 patients who caught the disease in local transmissions for "more accurate results".
“This comes as a great relief to us because we now can produce our own testing kits, which are badly needed by the task force and the government to carry out massive testing across the country,” Bambang said.
Indonesia is racing against time to upscale Covid-19 diagnostics in its attempts to trace contacts and locate new breeding grounds of the virus, and ultimately contain the outbreak.
Indonesia reported 11,192 confirmed coronavirus cases on Sunday, 349 more from the day before. The total cases included 845 deaths and 1,876 patients who have recovered.
The number of patients with probable cases stood at 23,130, more than double of confirmed cases, as the country is lacking equipment to test them.
Since the first cases were detected on March 2, just above 83,000 people have undergone PCR-based testing, representing only 0.03 percent of the country’s population of 272 million people.
Furthermore, the number of persons under surveillance for suspected Covid-19 infection is put at 236,369, according to the National Covid-19 Task Force.
People in this category are those who have had contacts with positive cases or showed mild clinical symptoms of the disease that don’t require hospitalization.