A game changer for air travel: Indonesia’s COVID-19 breath analyzer
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to accelerate around the world, the majority of developing countries are still encountering supply shortages with COVID-19 diagnostic testing. Many have no domestic manufacturing capacities so they rely heavily on imports. With a limited supply available at premium costs, only economically advantaged countries are able to invest more to import diagnostic tests. Testing remains the foremost determinant of a country’s success in containing the coronavirus. A lack of testing can paralyze any plan to curb the outbreak, since tracing and isolating COVID-19 suspected cases is best carried out following a rapid response to testing.
In responding to this challenge, the Indonesian Ministry of Transportation is ready to introduce rapid COVID-19 breath tests for domestic air travel on 1 April 2021. Four airports in Medan, Bandung, Yogyakarta, and Surabaya will be the first to start using a breath analyzer device that can electronically ‘smell’ the novel coronavirus and detect infection almost immediately. The Ministry is also anticipating that the device will be used for mass screening in high-traffic areas such as seaports, train stations and airports, and various other applications.
The COVID-19 breath analyzer device was developed by a group of Indonesian scientists at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta. These researchers claimed that it is a faster, cheaper, non-invasive, and reliable way to detect ongoing COVID-19 infections. The device uses artificial intelligence to analyze a breath sample and identify a unique volatile organic compound (VOC) exhaled by a person infected by COVID-19. The Indonesian government granted a distribution permit for the device in December 2020; the device is currently patent-pending.
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