Transportation Ministry says rapid and swab tests still required for travel

Check-in counters at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport’s Terminal 3 in January 2020. <em>Photo: Nadia Vetta Hamid for Coconuts Media</em>
Check-in counters at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport’s Terminal 3 in January 2020. Photo: Nadia Vetta Hamid for Coconuts Media

Welp, it looks like COVID-19 testing is still a requirement for travel in Indonesia, with the latest statement from the Transportation Ministry contradicting an earlier Health Ministry decree that scrapped the requirement in favor of thermal scanning.

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

Transportation Ministry’s spokesperson Adita Irawati said on Tuesday that current travel requirements still follow a circular issued by Indonesia’s COVID-19 Task Force earlier this year, which states that travelers must carry a health document that shows their non-reactive result from a rapid test, or a negative swab test result, which are valid for 14 days.

The clarification comes only days after the Health Ministry issued a decree scrapping the controversial rapid test requirement, which was preceded by a recent statement from the Indonesian office of the World Health Organization (WHO) warning that the test’s low accuracy level could provide “a false sense of security” for travelers.

According to the decree, both international and domestic travelers are instead 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. 

In mid-July, Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto issued a ministerial decree concerning guidelines for COVID-19 prevention and control, with one of the points stating that rapid tests were no longer recommended to diagnose people who are infected with COVID-19.

Based on this regulation, in conditions with limited PCR test capacity, rapid tests can only be performed to track a specific population and special situations — such as the arrival of Indonesian migrant workers in the national land border crossing posts, as well as for strengthening contact tracing in places like prisons, nursing homes, rehabilitation homes, and among vulnerable groups.

Meanwhile, WHO has recommended rapid tests for epidemiological or other research purposes.

Flight requirements in Indonesia have not exactly been consistent during the pandemic, and they may differ by region.

At the start of the pandemic, travelers had to present numerous documents such as health certificates and official orders in order to be eligible to fly, causing a great deal of confusion and long queues at airports.

Until mid-July, travelers flying in or out of Jakarta had to present an SIKM entry/exit permit before the program was scrapped, while Soekarno-Hatta airport official said that only PCR test results are required for flying later that month.

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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