Budi Sutrisno, Jakarta – The government plans to conduct polymerase chain reaction (PCR) "pool tests" in eight provinces that have been hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak, namely Jakarta, Banten, West Java, Central Java, East Java, Bali, North Sumatra and South Sulawesi.
The pool tests will use multistage random sampling with epidemiology, statistical and survey approaches.
COVID-19 task force chief Doni Monardo said his task force was currently preparing a detailed plan on the pool tests, which would target 1,000 random people to get a rough idea of the rate of COVID-19 transmission in the epicenters of the outbreak.
"These 1,000 people will represent the community in each province so that we will be able to get data derived from the swab tests. We will also ask them a number of questions as respondents," Doni said in a video conference on Tuesday.
He added the results of the pool tests would provide input and appropriate consideration for ministries, institutions and regional administrations for decision-making purposes in controlling the spread of COVID-19.
"So, what is now being discussed is preparation, which will lead to decisions about the smallest risks to take," the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) head added.
The government is looking to gear up efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus in the coming weeks, as it has ordered the task force to prepare steps to ease large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) by July.
"As for easing [the PSBB] in July, the President has given instructions that we must be careful. So, both the central government and regional administrations have to prepare a plan and think of anticipatory steps," Doni said.
Doni added that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo had instructed the task force to prepare a simulated easing of the PSBB, and that his task force was now studying the timing and priorities, as well as strengthening coordination with regional heads.
In pursuance of the plan, Doni said the task force must work hard to carry out mass testing to prevent the potential for transmission.
"Therefore, the task force must continue to optimize its ability to prepare reagents and help areas that do not yet have PCR machines," Doni said, adding that more PCR machines would also be sent to areas with a rising number of new cases, such as East Java.
As of Wednesday, Indonesia had conducted PCR tests on a total of 169,195 samples taken from 123,572 people – 15,438 of which tested positive for the coronavirus, with 1,028 deaths.