PCR test now mandatory for domestic flights as Health Ministry seeks to minimize false negatives

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

Even if you’re fully vaccinated, you now have to take the PCR test before boarding a plane, after the government enforced stricter screening measures for flights ahead of an anticipated boom for domestic air travel.

From Oct. 19 until at least Nov. 1, new domestic travel rules under the Enforcement of Restrictions on Public Activities (PPKM) protocol states that domestic air travelers must be at least partially vaccinated and must present a negative PCR test result that is valid for two days prior to departure.

Previously, fully-vaccinated Indonesians were allowed to board a plane with a negative result from an antigen test, while the partially-vaccinated must obtain a negative PCR test result. Antigen tests, which cost around IDR100K (US$7.08) each, are about one-fifth of the price of PCR tests, but the latter is more reliable than the former.

For this reason, the Health Ministry said the updated rule is a necessity for the safety of travelers.

“Indonesia’s [daily] positivity rate is now under 1 percent, meaning there are very few positive cases. But the [relatively low] sensitivity of the antigen test [for virus detection] could lead to false negatives,” Health Ministry spokeswoman Siti Nadia Tarmizi said.

The new rule may not be uniformly enforced across Indonesia just yet due to bureaucratic hold-ups, but mandatory PCR test for flights is expected to be the norm for the foreseeable future as the government gears up to allow full occupancy on planes.

The Transportation Ministry confirmed this today, and a new circular outlining the details of the updated occupancy rule is expected this afternoon.

Under current rules, domestic flights are allowed to operate at 70 percent passenger capacity.

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