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Medical workers in Indonesia are complaining of persistent delays to an increase in coronavirus testing promised by their president, Joko Widodo, Reuters reports.

The south east Asian nation, the world’s fourth most populous, has the highest coronavirus death toll in east Asia outside China, and one of the lowest global testing rates.

Indonesia reported 568 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, taking the total to 16,006, with 1,043 deaths. It has so far conducted around 50 tests per 100,000 people, compared with 2,500 per 100,000 in neighbouring Singapore.

Widodo promised in April that 10,000 tests would be performed each day, but the goal is yet to be reached, with testing rates on average hovering at less than half that figure. Health experts have urged Jakarta to rapidly increase its testing rate to determine the true spread of the virus across the Indonesian archipelago, saying that without sufficient data the full extent of the outbreak will remain unknown.

A man covers his face with a shirt instead of a face mask while in a queue to get the Takjil, food for breaking the Ramadan fast, in central Jakarta.

A man covers his face with a shirt instead of a face mask while in a queue to get the Takjil, food for breaking the Ramadan fast, in central Jakarta. Photograph: Muhammad Zaenuddin/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock

“We can’t even get the results after two weeks,” Meneldi Rasmin, a consulting doctor at Persahabatan Hospital in Jakarta, told Reuters.

“So we cannot determine whether it’s COVID-19 or not. We can only judge them (the patients) from clinical symptoms,” he said, attributing the delay to limited equipment capacity.

In between his rounds at Persahabatan Hospital where medical staff move about in white protective gear, Rasmin called for testing capacities to be scaled up not only in the capital, but across the sprawling country.

“Early detection by rapid testing should take place in every small district. Local clinics should take control, instead of (centralized) rapid testing,” he said.
“It should be organized at the community level, working together with the district authority.”



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