Jakarta – Hundreds of thousands of rapid test kits imported by the government from the Netherlands were made in China and have low accuracy, a report by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) has revealed.
State-owned Indonesian pharmaceutical company Kimia Farma imported 300,000 of the testing kits early in April from a pharmaceutical company in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, called Inzek International Trading BV.
Kimia Farma's strategic direct procurement assistant manager Fandji Yudha Yudistira told tempo.co he had gone to Apeldoorn to check the test kits before the purchase. Although he did not see the production, he believed the test kits, called Biozek, were manufactured in the Netherlands. Biozek's official website also claimed the same.
However, an OCCRP investigation revealed that the Biozek test kits were not manufactured in the Netherlands but in China, allegedly by a company called AllTest Biotech Co. Ltd. and were rebranded by Inzek.
Inzek's CEO Zeki Hamid admitted that the Biozek test kits were produced in China. He said the official website did not intend to claim the test kits were manufactured in the Netherlands but only "as a Netherlands' brand", and the "made in the Netherlands" claim had been removed from the site.
Although AllTest and Inzek claimed that the test kits have around 90 percent accuracy to test immunoglobulin, a type of antibody formed by plasma cells when someone is infected by a virus, several research studies have shown otherwise.
Research conducted by John Bell from Oxford University in the United Kingdom found the accuracy level of the test kits was much lower, causing the British government to cancel orders for rapid test kits from China.
A non-peer review study conducted in Spain by MedRxiv-arkaiv showed that the test kits only had around 47 percent accuracy levels. The study found that the test kits showed false negative results in more than half of 55 positive COVID-19 samples that were tested through polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.
Despite some research having questioned Biozek's accuracy, the brand is still on the list of recommended rapid test kits produced by the COVID-19 task force. The Presidential Palace also uses Biozek to rapid test guests.
COVID-19 national task force chief Doni Monardo said the government still prioritized PCR tests to accurately test the virus.
"We all know that rapid tests have low accuracy. That's the reason the World Health Organization has not made rapid tests the sole indicator of detecting the COVID-19 virus and still prioritizes PCR tests," he said on Monday.
He said the government was currently working hard to increase the nationwide PCR testing capacity to 10,000 specimens per day.
"The President has asked for an increase in staffing in all the labs. We've asked the labs to recruit new staff including personnel from the Indonesian Military and the National Police who have the capacity to conduct lab testing," he said. (nal)