JAKARTA: A senior Indonesian health official said there is no need to conduct novel coronavirus tests on citizens quarantined after being evacuated from Wuhan, as all 243 people were healthy.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday (Feb 6), Dr Windra Waworuntu, the Health Ministrys director for communicable diseases said: “We dont take swab samples because they are well. The SOP (standard operating procedure) doesnt say that we have to take samples from everyone."
“If they are not well, feverish, coughing and sneezing, then we will swab (them for samples). If they are fine, why should we swab?”
On Sunday, Indonesia evacuated 238 students from Hubei province, where the novel coronavirus is thought to have originated amid a lockdown by Chinese authorities.
All 238 students and five officials from the Indonesian embassy in China who assisted the students return, were subsequently quarantined at a military facility in the remote Indonesian island of Natuna for the next two weeks.
COST IS AN ISSUE: HEALTH MINISTRY
Dr Waworuntu said that it would be costly to test all those currently under quarantine.
The regeant – a compound used in chemical analysis to detect coronavirus – involved for one test would cost a billion rupiah (US$73,035), she claimed. Each person is tested at least twice to ensure accuracy.
“But that doesnt mean we wont do it when we have to. We will.”
When asked if the current approach is in line with guidelines issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Waworuntu said Indonesia is complying with all guidelines and recommendations currently set by the international body.
The director said Indonesia will only tighten the current policy if it is mandated by the WHO.
“The guidelines set by the WHO is constantly updated. Perhaps tomorrow will be different,” she said. “But from the guidelines we have received so far, that is the standard.”
Dr Waworuntu said doctors are constantly monitoring the health of everyone being quarantined in Natuna.
To date, the virus has killed more than 550 people and infected over 28,000 people around the world.
The WHO has declared the flu-like virus a global emergency as the virus spread to at least 25 countries and regions.
But Indonesia, a country of 264 million people, appeared to be spared from the outbreak, even as neighbouring countries like Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Australia each has confirmed cases of novel coronavirus.
Indonesia has earlier tested 42 people for the novel coronavirus since the outbreak began last month. But all tests came back negative.
Some have questioned if Indonesia has the right tools to detect the virus.
"EVERYTHING IN LINE WITH WHO PROTOCOL"
Dr Waworuntu said Indonesia would continue to make preparations for a possible outbreak.
“Indonesia is doing everything in line with (WHO) protocol. We are making preparations and continue to increase our capacity,” she said.