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Asia Minute: Indonesia’s Coronavirus Testing Problems

AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim
A health worker takes a nasal swab sample from a woman during a public testing for the coronavirus conducted in Jakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020.

Free testing for COVID-19 continues this week both on Oahu and around the islands. Testing is increasing in many areas across the country and around the world, but there are some dramatic exceptions—including Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

When it comes to COVID-19, Indonesia is the deadliest country in Southeast Asia. More than 7,600 people there have died from the virus.

The Indonesian Doctors Association says it’s killed more than a hundred doctors — more than a quarter of them in the past month – along with a far greater number of other health professionals from nurses to midwives.

While the Philippines has more cases overall, the pace of new sickness is quicker in Indonesia — more than 3,000 cases on Wednesday alone.  

Indonesia’s President told Reuters this week that his country’s cases of COVID-19 will peak this month, and then start to decline.

Public health professionals have a different view.

Testing has not been widespread. In fact, the data aggregator Worldometer says Indonesia has the lowest testing rate among countries with more than 100,000 cases. The Health Ministry says the country’s positivity rate in August ranged from a low of 11% to a high of 25%.

For context, the World Health Organization recommends any government that re-opens should have a positivity rate of 5% or below for two consecutive weeks.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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