In a national disaster condition caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a fast and accurate laboratory diagnosis results is needed.  As soon as patients are diagnosed, they could be identified and obtain special treatment, such as isolation and receive COVID-19 procedure.  In addition, tracing of People Under Observation (Orang Dalam Pemantauan – ODP) and quarantine action are important to prevent a wider virus spread.

The qualification for a laboratory to be able to conduct COVID-19 sample examination is to have a laboratory standard with a BSL-2 plus level (Bio Safety Lab).  In accordance with the Decree of the Minister of Health No.  HK.01.07MENKES/182/2020 on COVID-19 Examination Laboratory Network, in Yogyakarta currently only the Center for Environmental Health Engineering and Disease Control of the Special Region of Yogyakarta that can conduct COVID-19 diagnostic tests.

The Head of the Health Research and Development Agency (Badan Penelitian dan Pengembangan Kesehatan – “Balitbangkes) of the Ministry of Health, Siswanto conveyed on the capacity limitation of the lab that has been appointed by the Government to conduct a diagnostic test for COVID-19. The limitation is due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases and the expanded definition of individuals that need to be examined in order to be able to stop the transmission of disease in the population. Therefore, representing the Government, Siswanto asked universities to play a role in examining the Covid-19 sample. 

Responding to the request, Gadjah Mada University (“UGM”) through its Faculty of Medicine, Public Health, and Nursing (FK-KMK), has identified labs that met the criteria. As a result, there are two laboratories in UGM that meets the requirements of BSL-2 plus, i.e., the Tahija Foundation Diagnostic Laboratory (WMP Yogyakarta) and FK-KMK UGM Microbiology Laboratory .

In responding to this, Trihadi Saptoadi, Chairman of the Tahija Foundation said “In the current crisis, we have given permission to use the Tahija Foundation Diagnostic Laboratory in order to support the control of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Special Region of Yogyakarta and surrounding areas. The Tahija Foundation is very concerned and would like to give our best efforts in handling this COVID-19.”

WMP Yogyakarta Co-principal investigator, who is also the Director of the Center for Tropical Medicine FK-KMK UGM, dr. Riris Andono Ahmad, MPH, PhD, mentioned that so far the Diagnostic Lab was used to support the study of the Wolbachia Application for Dengue Elimination (AWED), WMP Yogyakarta.

“During this pandemic, the process of patient recruitment and entomological samples screening have been stopped. Based on Balitbangkes’ request and understanding the ability of the lab, starting on April 7, 2020, the Tahija Foundation Diagnostics laboratory that located in FK-KMK UGM will begin to be fully used for screening COVID-19 samples” said the doctor who is usually called Donnie. In handling COVID-19 sample tests, dr. Donnie explained, as of April 7, 2020 and onwards, the Tahija Foundation Diagnostic Lab can fully extract 160 COVID-19 RNA samples from patient samples per day, with qPCR performed on the same day (2x running). According to dr. Donnie, in one week 800 samples are screened, with test results that can be obtained in 24-48 hours as of the day the samples were processed.

Further, dr. Donnie explained that the lab specifications were awarded with BSL-2 plus by Biohaztech Singapore in 2013 and 2017. This lab has 2 units of qPCR machines (Roche – Lightcycler 480 II) in good condition and regular maintenance. In addition, the Tahija Foundation Diagnostic Lab has 1 senior lab and 3 lab staffs who are GCLP and GCP certified. “In the future, we hope that the collaboration between Balitbangkes, UGM and the Tahija Foundation can run well and the control of the COVID-19 infections transmission can run effectively” said dr. Donnie.