A medical worker collects mucosal swab samples from a man in Cideng Thomas street market in Central Jakarta last month.(Antara Photo/Muhammad Adimaja)

Prioritize Test for Tracing as Pandemic in Indonesia Likely to Rise Until Oct: WHO


JULY 10, 2020

Jakarta. The World Health Organisation said Indonesia should start to prioritize tests for Covid-19 suspects to improve its tracing capability — instead of spending about 40 percent of the country's testing capacity for discharging patients from isolation — as the pandemic accelerated in the country and likely to continue rising until October. 

Indonesia has doubled its polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing capacity in the past month. As of Thursday, the country processed a total of 992,069 specimens, compared to 429,161 samples by June 9. But, the country today spent 17 PCR tests for every ten new suspects tested, compared to 15 tests for every ten new suspects in June. 

WHO noted the country's significant improvement in testing capacity but also pointed to substantially "high number of deaths in patients under surveillance (PDP) and persons under observations (ODP)," may indicate many more Covid-19 cases went undetected among the country's 271 million population.  

"PCR tests should be prioritized for the diagnosis of suspected cases (PDP and ODP) rather than for follow-up tests for patients to be discharged," the organization wrote in its latest situation report dated July 8. 

Indonesia follows WHO outdated guidance, which requires confirmed Covid-19 patients to have two negative PCR tests before being discharged from hospitals or isolations. WHO updated the guidance on May 27, saying that Covid-19 patients were not likely to be infectious after about two weeks on average since their infection.

Under the updated criteria, symptomatic patients could leave their isolation "10 days after symptom onset, plus at least three additional days without symptoms," WHO said. People with asymptomatic cases could leave isolation ten days after being tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that caused Covid-19 disease.

"If adopted to the country context, this prioritization of PCR tests would mean an improved diagnosis of suspected COVID-19 cases," WHO said. 

The calls came as Indonesia recorded its highest single-day jump in new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, with 2,657 new cases to take the country's total to 70,736. 

WHO said, quoting a model from the University of Indonesia, that the number of Covid-19 infections would likely to continue rising "until September September or October unless stricter measures are introduced."

The assessment was in line with another projection from the CovidAnalytics team from the Operation Research Centar at  Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which predicted more than 4,000 cases daily increase by September.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said the Thursday's record was a "red warning light" for the country. The president urged the local government to step up their efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19. 

"The Covid-19 spread in the country is very dependent on how the regions control it," Jokowi said.