Boxes containing 50,000 reagents from South Korea arrive at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Covid-19 Task Force)

Indonesia Receives Shipment of 50,000 Reagents From South Korea to Boost Covid-19 Testing

BY :ANSELMUS BATA, DINA MANAFE

APRIL 20, 2020

Jakarta. Indonesia received a shipment of 50,000 reagents from South Korea on Sunday which the government will use to boost the number of polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, testing for Covid-19 in the country. 

Lt. Gen. Doni Monardo, the head of the Covid-19 Task Force, said another delivery of 495,000 reagents from South Korea is expected next week.

South Korea is the only country outside China still able to export the reagents amid rising global demand for the critical ingredient for the PCR test, currently the golden standard for detecting Covid-19.

The South Korean government had promised last month to export the majority of its PCR test kits and reagents to Indonesia.  

"We are grateful today that in less than 24 hours we were able to get 50,000 PCR reagents," Doni said in a statement. 

Doni said the swift delivery was made possible by close coordination between the Indonesian Ambassador to South Korea Umar Hadi, the director-general of Customs and Excise Heru Pambudi and flag carrier Garuda Indonesia's managing director Irfan Setiaputra. 

Indonesia still has one of the lowest testing rates for Covid-19 in the world. As of Sunday, it has only tested 156 people out of one million of its population. That's lower than Senegal or India, which have both tested 270 people out of one million. 

 

The Health Ministry has designated 35 laboratories for Covid-19 testing across Indonesia and increased their test capability by nine times to about 2,000 tests per day on average this month.

This is still far below President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's target of 10,000 tests per day

The low number of testing has led to many experts and doctors to suspect that Indonesia may have more Covid-19 cases and deaths than the official numbers would suggest.  

Daeng Faqih, the chairman of the Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI) said hospitals had reported more than 1,000 deaths of suspect Covid-19 patients – either non-hospitalized people under surveillance (ODP) or hospitalized patients under observation (PDP) – to the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB). 

As of Sunday, the Health Ministry has only announced 582 deaths from 6,575 confirmed coronavirus cases alongside 686 recoveries.

More Testing for Doctors, Nurses

Doni said President Jokowi had instructed the task force to prioritize testing for doctors and nurses who had been treating Covid-19 patients, and also the families of these health workers.

"The president has asked us to look after our medical staff and their families. He does not want any more medical workers to fall victim to Covid-19," Doni said.

IDI data showed 24 Indonesian doctors have died from coronavirus since the first cases were announced at the beginning of March. The Indonesian National Nurses Associaton (PPNI) announced 13 nurses have died as of last week.

Aside from risking their lives, health workers across the country have also experienced discrimination for treating Covid-19 patients.  

Last week, nurses in Palembang, South Sumatra, were expelled from their boarding house due to coronavirus fears. 

PPNI chairman Harif Fadhillah hoped authorities would put a stop to these incidents of discrimination.

"Even before this pandemic happens, nurses and other health workers dealt with viruses and germs every day, including dangerous viruses such as HIV and TB. But they always remained safe by following standard operating procedures," Harif said.

"It's the people going to malls, markets and other social gatherings that we've got to worry about, because many [suspect Covid-19 patients] are without symptoms, don't wear masks and don't wash their hands," Harif said.

 

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