With travelers forming long queues for the antigen rapid test at Soekarno-Hatta Airport in recent days, Indonesia’s COVID-19 Task Force has been quick to deflect the blame for the government’s unpreparedness to handle a sudden influx of demand for tests by suggesting that travelers should take the test elsewhere.
The long lines have led to concerns of the emergence of new COVID-19 clusters. After all, the task force only enforced new (and rushed) testing regulations on Saturday, requiring all travelers, including those traveling by air, in Java to present the negative result of an antigen rapid test that is valid for three days.
The rule is applicable during the year-end holiday period beginning on Dec. 19 and is set to last until Jan. 8 for those traveling between cities, regions, and provinces within Java island.
Responding to the concerns, Wiku Adisasmito, the task force’s spokesman, has advised travelers to undergo the antigen rapid test prior to going to the airport.
“If people don’t want queues, don’t take the [antigen] rapid test at the airport,” Wiku said yesterday.
“We appeal to the public to avoid traveling if it’s not urgent to reduce the potential of [COVID-19] transmission.”
Meanwhile, Indonesian Ombudsman member Alvin Lie pointed out that the large number of travelers lining up at the airport was due to the sudden enforcement of the regulation.
In preparation for the turnout, airport management firm Angkasa Pura II opened a preorder service for COVID-19 tests from PCR or swab test, antigen rapid test, or antibody rapid test through its official website. For those who have preordered the tests, they can go straight to the testing center at the Terminal 3’s Umrah Lounge.
Passengers also formed long queues for the antigen rapid test at Gambir Station in Central Jakarta this morning, where at least 1,000 people had lined up since 5:30am, even when the test facility only opened at 7am.
The antigen rapid test, also known as the antigen swab test, is conducted by taking samples of secretions from the nose and throat to detect the presence of certain viral antigens that indicate a current viral infection. The antigen swab test, which is widely available for around IDR250K (US$17.61), is more expensive than the antibody rapid test, but it’s cheaper than the PCR swab test and is said to be able to detect the coronavirus in just 15 minutes. In general, however, the test is not considered to be as accurate as the PCR swab test.