These are the rapid tests conducted by pricking a patient’s finger, instead of collecting a swab. They’re easier to administer, cheaper, and yield faster, albeit less accurate, results.
It doesn’t mean they’re easy to implement
In many places, like the city of Bandung—where several cases had surfaced—or in Bekasi—a satellite city on the outskirts of Jakarta—the original plan was to call citizens in for mass testing in open areas like sports stadiums. This was overthrown within days and replaced with a different model: where patients have to wait for a doctor to recommend a test and then visit a health centre, or they may be asked to do a test if they are identified as someone who was potentially exposed.
The West Java Province, which includes Bandung and Bekasi, led the way in mass rapid testing and has reportedly been able to identify and isolate several hotpots of the outbreak, which should slow the spread. Although the false-negatives problem associated with rapid tests could make this less effective. West Java has also been a pioneer in mapping the data it gathers about patients in observation and making it available to the public.
Screenshot of the Covid-19 hotspot map on the West Java Provincial Government website
In Jakarta, where the number of cases is highest, with a total of 2,335 confirmed cases as of 14 April, there’s been an effort to push for more rapid testing. There’s now a “drive through” option, where patients can arrange an appointment via an app, have their blood sample taken within minutes, and get test results via SMS.
Halodoc, a telemedicine app that also includes an on-demand medicine delivery service in collaboration with Gojek, was the first to introduce the drive through rapid test programme in Jakarta. “We have the blessing from the authorities to move ahead with this plan,” Jonathan Sudharta, Halodoc’s CEO, told us.
Halodoc, which connects patients who have been recommended for testing to its partner hospitals in Jakarta, is providing its drive through service for free till 17 April. However, the app doesn’t mention charges for when the free period ends.
Halodoc’s drive through rapid testing programme in Jakarta. Photo: Halodoc
What’s still lacking for now is a mechanism by which Halodoc and other providers of rapid tests report their data. There’s no unified reporting tool. Provinces like West Java have created their own. Patients who test positive for the antibody are recommended to self-isolate at home, and if their symptoms worsen, to check into one of the hospitals appointed by the government for a swab test.
“Once we’re given directives on [how to report our data] by the authorities, we’re willing to collaborate,” says Sudharta. “We chose not to wait [and] implement first.”
Can I get tested?
In other countries, rapid testing has been decried as unreliable and better suited to monitor patients after they’ve been confirmed Covid-positive through PCR.