Indonesia scraps rapid test as travel requirement in favor of thermal scanning

Soekarno-Hatta International Airport’s Terminal 3 in November 2019. <em>Photo: Nadia Vetta Hamid for Coconuts Media</em>
Soekarno-Hatta International Airport’s Terminal 3 in November 2019. Photo: Nadia Vetta Hamid for Coconuts Media

Update Sep. 10: The Transportation Ministry says rapid and swab tests are still required for travel

The Health Ministry has scrapped rapid tests as a travel requirement in Indonesia, it has been reported, with thermal scanners now set to play a more important role in screening for COVID-19 at the country’s ports of entry.

The ministry issued a decree scrapping the controversial rapid test requirement following a recent statement from the Indonesian office of the WHO warning that the test’s low accuracy level could provide a false sense of security for travelers.

As reported by Bisnis, the decree states that both international and domestic travelers are required to undergo thermal screening and potentially further health examinations if necessary upon departure and arrival at a port of entry. Anyone exhibiting symptoms of fever and/or pneumonia will be subject to further medical evaluation and quarantine should they test positive for coronavirus infection. 

Prior rapid testing as a travel requirement, which has been enforced for domestic travel in the past few months, is no longer listed in the updated policy.

While a central government decree should, in theory, supersede regional regulations, recent developments have shown that some national policies are only enforced by regional governments pending the latter’s own adaptation of said policies.

For instance, it’s understood that Bali’s regional regulation requiring rapid tests for travel into the province is still in effect despite the Health Ministry’s decree. As such, it remains to be seen how long it would take for the ministry’s updated policy to fully come into effect nationwide.

Health experts have long warned that false negative outcomes from rapid tests pose a risk to travelers. While domestic travel is allowed in Indonesia, health experts have maintained that the safest option right now is to hold off on traveling and avoid crowded places like airports.

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