Indonesia’s members of parliament, families to be tested for COVID-19 this week

Indonesia’s members of parliament during a plenary session in February 2020. Photo: Twitter/@DPR_RI
Indonesia’s members of parliament during a plenary session in February 2020. Photo: Twitter/@DPR_RI

All 575 members of the House of Parliament (DPR), along with their families, are set to represent the people in undergoing tests for the novel coronavirus while the government continues its attempt to make testing available to the wider public.

DPR Secretary General Indra Iskandar said the tests are going to be carried out this Thursday or Friday at the official parliamentary housing estates in South Jakarta’s Kalibata and Ulujami.

“With 575 members of parliament, we’ll multiply the tests by four to around 2,000 on the whole, in case their drivers and domestic help [want to get tested as well],” Indra told reporters today, as quoted by CNN Indonesia.

Indra added that the members of parliament and their families will undergo the rapid COVID-19 test method, which, instead of involving a nasal swab, would involve blood sample analysis and can produce results within a couple of days.

President Joko Widodo last week ordered the Health Ministry to carry out rapid tests on a massive scale in Indonesia. Achmad Yurianto, Indonesia’s spokesperson for COVID-19-related matters, later said that the government is in the process of procuring 1 million rapid test kits, with 150 thousand having already arrived from China and are set to be distributed to regions with high coronavirus infection rates.  

Indra said the procurement of the members of parliament’s test kits was self-funded.

“There were donations from the leadership [in the DPR] in procuring the rapid test kits,” he said, adding that no taxpayers’ money was spent.

Even so, the plan was widely panned.

Why do these people get priority? They are low risk. They’ve never been in a crowded train. Even though it’s part of their job, few of them get close to the public. 

Why don’t healthcare workers and their families get priority testing? They deserve it more.

The nasal swab test in Indonesia is reportedly only free if the subject tests positive. Those who test negative must fork out anywhere between IDR300K (US$18) to IDR2.5 million (US$150) depending on the test package — a range that may discourage a vast number of Indonesians from getting tested.

It’s not yet clear whether or not the rapid test kit will be available for free to the public.

As of this afternoon, Indonesia has confirmed 579 COVID-19 cases, including 49 deaths and 30 recoveries.

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