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Indonesia develops ventilator that costs less than $1,400

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BANDUNG: A team of Indonesian engineers working around the clock said it has produced in two months a compact ventilator to sell at a fraction of the usual cost, hoping to accelerate the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Indonesia reported 338 new coronavirus cases yesterday, taking its total number to 12,776. There were 35 deaths, taking the total to 930, the highest death toll in East Asia outside China.

Like many other countries, Indonesia faces a shortage of the vital mechanical breathing devices to treat people with the pandemic disease.

Using household materials such as plastic drinking tumblers to make parts, the 40 engineers from the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) developed the Vent-I ventilator that is the size of a mini-oven, said team leader Syarif Hidayat.

The institute aims to sell the machines for less than 15 million rupiah (S$1,400) each, one-twentieth or less than the typical US$20,000 to US$25,000, he said.

"The structure of this ventilator is much simpler compared to the ventilator that we see in the intensive care unit," said Mr Hidayat, a 57-year-old lecturer at the university.

Indonesia has 8,413 ventilators in 2,867 hospitals across the archipelago, Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto said last month.

That is far from enough for the 180,000 ICUs that Indonesia will need in the best case, according to a recent ITB-led study that forecasts infections rising to 1.6 million in the country of 260 million people.

Meanwhile, Thailand said it plans to expand coronavirus testing for critical groups as the number of new cases is dwindling into single digits and some business are reopening.

The government aims to reach a total of 400,000 tests from the current level of around 230,000, said Mr Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the government's Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, yesterday.

Thailand recorded three new coronavirus cases, bringing its total to 2,992, a senior official said. The death toll remained at 55 as there were no more deaths.

Malaysia reported 39 newcases yesterday, bringing its total to 6,467 infections. There were no new deaths so the toll stands at 107. - REUTERS