Cheap and Fast PCR Test: Are We Optimistic?

September 16, 2021 3:43 am || By

Travelling during the pandemic may not be preferable for some. However, for others, it is not a matter of choice that one should opt into the hustle and bustle of business trips. Taking a PCR test becomes an additional precondition of travel. Claimed as the most accurate test procedure to ensure people’s transmission status, the PCR test now expands to more than just travel terms but also as a piece of entrance evidence to meetings and gatherings. With the essential nature of the PCR test, complaints regarding access to PCR tests prevails on Twitter. Costing as high as IDR 900,000 per session with a time relevance of 1×48 hours, this test becomes inaccessible for most.

Responding to the complaints, on the 16th of August, the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo (Jokowi), made a public statement together with the Minister of Public Health to push the price of PCR tests from IDR 900,000 to IDR 450,000. This decision was made due to the polemics of comparison made by both experts and the grassroots regarding the price of PCR tests in Indonesia and in countries across Asia. The price set by Indonesia was claimed to be marginally more expensive than India and Malaysia. The discussions peaked on the 6th of August when India publicly announced their decision to cut off the PCR test price to 500 Rupee, which is equivalent to IDR 96,000. This statement provoked various responses from Indonesian Twitter users as it signalled a Twitter trend on the same day. The responses vary in sentiment, but are mostly negative, signalling the scepticism from Indonesian Twitter users on the new price set by Jokowi.

Twitter Data Exploration

We use a trend analysis on Twitter from 16th of July to 16th of August (1-month range) to determine the peak discussion of the issue, using related keywords as follows:

‘Pcr AND mahal’ OR ‘pcr AND covid OR mahal OR jokowi OR harga OR murah OR akses’

Figure 1: Data analysis flow

Such keywords are being processed according to the diagram above. Twitter data exploration also includes data cleaning and filtering using CSV and Microsoft Excel, such as converting tweets to lowercases, deleting unnecessary wordings like URLs, numbers, hashtags, stopwords, and the like. After the process is done, duplicated data are deleted and abbreviations are rephrased.

With a total of 2326 tweets gathered in total, we filtered and came up with 951 relevant tweets to be labelled sentiments. The result of the sentiment analysis is as follows:

[1] Figure 2: Sentiment percentage of PCR discourse tweets

From the graph above, it can be summarized that there are 113 tweets with positive sentiment (11.8%), 454 tweets with neutral sentiment (47.7%), and 384 tweets with negative sentiment (40.3%). Samples of tweets with each of the sentiments can be seen through the exhibit below:

Figure 3: Tweets samples based on sentiment analysis

Based on the samples above, it can be seen that the tweets with positive sentiment discuss optimistic reactions to the government’s decision in reducing the price of the PCR test. This could be detected through some of the “positive” keywords, such as “Wah!!” and “akhirnya” which translates into “finally”, indicating that the decision has been long awaited. Tweets with neutral sentiment mainly express personal experience on using PCR and objective explanations on why PCR can be costly without necessarily integrating emotions inside the tweets. Meanwhile, tweets with negative sentiment are expressing protests and disagreements from personal reactions, or reactions from other parties along with some complaints integrated inside the tweets.

Sentiment Trend Analysis

Trend exploration is done to see how many tweets regarding PCR price are discussed in a certain amount of time. In this research, there is one significant burst of trend with neutral and negative sentiment on the 16th of August 2021. Looking at the event that is related to this phenomenon, on the 16th of August 2021, Indonesian president, Jokowi, announced the policy to decrease the cost of the PCR test for the first time amidst the protest of PCR price in Indonesia. Following that, this event was covered by various social media news outlets. Therefores it is natural that this event becomes the spotlight of Twitter. Most of the tweets are negative and neutral due to people’s lack of optimism on this policy. The majority of these Tweets are still complaining that the decreased PCR price is yet to accommodate people’s capacity to afford the test as it is still way above the PCR price in India. Some are still demanding for more subsidies.

Based on Twitter users analysis, we can see that one of the top users that has led the discourse was @tirta_cipeng, also known as Dokter Tirta, a Twitter influencer and medical expert known for being vocal on political issues, especially relating to public health policies.

Figure 4: Screenshot on top user discussion by @tirta_cipeng (URL:https://twitter.com/tirta_cipeng/status/1427291713647767557)

With 204 Retweets and 932 Likes, Dokter Tirta has led the discussion of expensive PCR tests by stating that after 1.5 years of waiting for this issue to rise, finally the discussion of PCR cost has surfaced dramatically. He continued by stating that this is only because of the Indian government’s decision to excessively subsidise India’s PCR tests cost. Dokter Tirta closed his statement by saying that the mechanism of PCR subsidies is very complicated.

What Can the Government Do?

Based on the data obtained, we can grasp several conclusions and recommendations that can be applied by the Ministry of Health to support a tracked and accessible PCR test.

Generally, sentiments on Twitter regarding the cost of PCR tests are neutral and negative, with the majority of the tweets filled with complaints and doubts. This can be an indicator that the government’s decision to reduce the price of PCR tests has yet to be accommodative to the people. Some people have not given any strong reaction to the decision as they choose to observe the policy execution first in weeks to come. This could be a chance for the government to provide evidence that they are taking this policy seriously.

Looking at the top users based on the amount of engagement, there has not been any tweets that come from the official Ministry of Health account. This can be a push for the government to educate the society further regarding the reason why PCR tests can be costly or why subsidies may not go further than the current range. This could also mean that the government must provide more alternatives of tests or remote business policies that are stricter to prevent people from travelling if they could not afford PCR tests rather than letting people go through an untracked travel.

Author: Nabila Talitha Sani

Editor: Josia Paska Darmawan

Data collecting and processing: Nadia Elaesiana