Indonesian medical workers get ready to disinfect a passenger plane at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Banten. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Over Half a Million Indonesians at Risk of Contracting Covid-19: Gov't


MARCH 20, 2020

Jakarta. As the coronavirus outbreak gains pace in Indonesia, so far affecting 17 out of 34 provinces, the number of infected persons could grow to between 600,000 and 700,000, a government spokesman said on Friday.

The number of confirmed cases in the country increased by 60 to 369 with seven more deaths to bring the total number of fatalities to 32 on Friday, said Achmad Yurianto, a spokesman for the government handling of Covid-19 outbreak.


"From our calculation, the number of population at risk is between 600,000 and 700,000. It is for that reason that the government is preparing 1 million testing kits for mass examinations to identify positive cases," Achmad said in a televised address in Jakarta.

The mass testing will be based on risk analyses, meaning that a person who is not at risk of exposure won't be allowed to take it, he said. First in line are people who have had contacts with positive patients, Achmad said.

"When someone tests positive for coronavirus, we will go through everyone they've made contact with during the past 14 days. If [the patient] was staying at home, all the family members will take the test. If he works at an office, all people in the office will have to take the test," Achmad said.

The mass testing will take blood samples from people suspected of having Covid-19 for a quicker result. If a stronger indication of infection is detected, a subsequent swab test will be conducted for a more convincing result, he said.

The blood test detects the level of immunoglobulin, the natural immune system produced by the body to neutralize pathogenic bacteria and viruses. It means that people with viruses other than Covid-19 may test positive as well, Achmad said.

At this initial stage, people with suspected cases will be encouraged to self-isolate as outpatients to reduce hospital loads, Achmad said.

"For people who test positive after the swab tests, we provide isolation rooms. The government is building more isolation rooms in the Athletes' Village [in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta] and several hotels. Hospitals belonging to private companies and state-owned enterprises will also contribute," he said.

The government acquired around 2,000 rapid testing kits on Friday, and will receive 100,000 more on Saturday, he said.

Avigan and Chloroquine

In a separate press conference, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said the government is procuring millions of pills of anti-influenza drug Avigan and malaria medication Chloroquine to treat Covid-19 patients.

The president admitted the two medications have not been officially approved for treatment of Covid-19 but they have been used in several countries and "brought recoveries."

"We have procured 5,000 Avigan pills and are in the process of ordering 2 million more," Jokowi said in a televised speech aired by the State Secretariat's YouTube account.

"The second medication is Chloroquine, we will buy 3 million of them," he said from his official residence in Bogor, West Java.

He claimed that the mass testing for suspected cases had begun earlier on Friday, starting from South Jakarta, where the country's first coronavirus transmission was reported.

"The rapid testing started this afternoon at an area where we know contacts between positive patients have occurred. The team made door-to-door visits to do the tests. We make a priority of areas, and we attended the most vulnerable one in South Jakarta," the president said.