WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health
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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 134-140

Assessing the COVID-19 diagnostic laboratory capacity in Indonesia in the early phase of the pandemic

1 National Institute of Health Research and Development, Ministry of Health, Jakarta, Indonesia
2 Faculty of Medicine, Padjadjaran University, Bandung, Indonesia
3 Directorate for Health and Community Nutrition, Ministry of National Development Planning/National Development Planning Agency, Jakarta, Indonesia
4 Indonesia One Health University Network, Universitas Indonesia, Depok, Indonesia

Correspondence Address:
Dr Harimat Hendarwan
National Institute of Health Research and Development, Ministry of Health, Jakarta
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DOI: 10.4103/2224-3151.294307

PMID: 32978346

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The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has put a great burden on countries as a result of the demand for laboratory diagnostic testing for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). This paper reports our experiences in rapidly assessing Indonesia’s COVID-19 laboratory testing capacity in the early phase of the pandemic response. Through a questionnaire-based survey carried out between 23 March and 2 April, we estimated the daily tests that could be done by the 44 facilities, excluding the national referral laboratory, first assigned to be COVID-19 diagnostic laboratories. The capacity constraints were lack of reagents and equipment, and limited human resources; because of these constraints, most of the laboratories were not yet operational. A major hindrance was reliance on imported supplies and the associated procurement time. Expanding real-time polymerase chain reaction testing capacity, through increased numbers of laboratories and optimization of existing facilities, was clearly the main priority. We also assessed the potential yield from using rapid molecular testing machines in the country’s referral hospitals. Even assuming this potential could be tapped, several provinces would still be poorly served by diagnostic services in the event of a surge in cases. Since this rapid assessment, the number of designated COVID-19 laboratories has increased and, by 1 July 2020, was 163. On 29 July 2020, for the first time, the number of specimens examined in a day reached more than 30 000, achieving the WHO testing capacity target of 1 in 1000 inhabitants per week.

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