Indonesia boosts virus sequencing capacity amid endemic transition

    Jakarta (ANTARA) – The Ministry of Health is improving its virus sequencing capacity by increasing the number of equipment and laboratories to detect COVID-19 variants amid the transition to the endemic phase of COVID-19.

    “If someone asks, why is the pandemic in Indonesia relatively under control? The first is (because of) the strategy to identify the enemy (viruses), and the second is the strategy to defend our population,” Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said on Tuesday.

    He made the statement during a working meeting with Commission IX of the House of Representatives (DPR).

    According to Sadikin, the sequencing capacity for identifying viruses has currently reached 2,700 samples per week from 800 samples per week at the beginning of the pandemic.

    He noted that as of December 2020, only 24 sequencing tools were available at 16 laboratories, which comprised 14 laboratories in Java Island, 1 laboratory in Sumatra, and 1 laboratory in Maluku-Papua.

    In 2022, the number of sequencing tools increased to 56 units spread across 41 laboratory networks covering all regions in Indonesia.

    With that capacity, Indonesia is contributing to reporting the results of virus sample testing through the GISAID platform, which can be accessed globally, reaching an average of 2,700 sequencing test samples per week.

    “The current capacity can triple the genome sequencing test in Indonesia,” he said.

    He explained that genome sequencing is a strategy to identify viruses, bacteria, or fungi that have the potential to cause a pandemic.

    “With the presence of these genome sequencing laboratories, Indonesia already has detection facilities like radar in all islands in Indonesia,” he remarked.

    Meanwhile, a population defense strategy is being carried out by measuring the antibody levels in the community periodically every six months, he said.

    “Hopefully, in early February 2023, the result of the third antibody serosurvey will be released,” he added.

    He explained that in the first and second serosurveys, Indonesians’ antibody defense against COVID-19 was very strong, rising from 87 to 98 percent, with antibody titers rising from 400 units/ml to 2 thousand units/ml.

    Given the level of antibodies that people have, it has been proven that a surge in cases will not occur in Indonesia when new variants attack many countries, he said.

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