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13 Apr, 2020 12:30

Indonesia will rapidly expand coronavirus testing, president says after criticism

Indonesia will rapidly expand coronavirus testing, president says after criticism

President Joko Widodo said Indonesia will be able to conduct more than 10,000 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests a day for the new coronavirus. The president rejected criticism that he favored economic considerations over public health.

Widodo told foreign media on Monday that Indonesia had sourced new PCR kits from Switzerland and its extra testing capability would be on stream by next week, with plans to expand testing to 78 labs. The world’s fourth most populous nation has one of the lowest testing rates for the coronavirus, drawing criticism from the World Health Organization and public health experts.

As of Monday morning, Indonesia had tested 27,000 people, a tenfold increase in the past three weeks but still only about one test for every 10,000 people. That figure is reportedly below India and most other Southeast Asian countries. Australia has tested 140 people per 10,000.

Indonesia imported some 500,000 rapid test kits in mid-March, but a lack of accuracy meant those found positive had to be re-tested by the PCR method. Of those tested in Indonesia, 4,557 or about 15 percent have been found to be infected, and almost 9 percent of them, or 399 people, have died, Reuters said.