Confirmatory testing must be reserved for symptomatic, vulnerable group: WHO

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 12 2022 02:24 PM | Updated as of Jan 12 2022 06:00 PM

Health workers check AFP
Health workers check identification documents of people queueing up for COVID-19 swab tests outside a gymnasium in Manila on January 7, 2022 as fresh cases of the virus continue to rise. AFP

MANILA - Targeted testing is a better use of the Philippines' resources, the World Health Organization said Wednesday following calls for mass testing.

It would be more prudent to reserve testing for "symptomatic people, especially symptomatic elderly and vulnerable people," said WHO representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe.

"Targeted testing is a better use of the resources on RT-PCR test and the hypothesis that if you have a confirmed case in a household and other people are asymptomatic there is no need to confirm testing, you just need to assume that it’s omicron, because it’s milder its more prudent to just isolate or quarantine as the case may be," he said during a virtual public briefing.

"It would not be necessary to test and confirm every infection unless of course you're in vulnerable groups or the elderly where it would be useful to understand so we can initiate early treatment."

He added, "It’s also not very useful in testing other asymptomatic people in a household once you have a confirmed omicron case in a household because of the higher transmissibility they are very likely to get infected or would have got already infected."

Other countries are also practicing prioritization of confirmatory swab tests or RT-PCR tests, infectious disease specialist Dr. Edsel Salvaña said Tuesday.

He cited Israel and Ontario, Canada as examples, where those below 60 years old are given antigen tests.

"Kung i-overload mo ang RT-PCR tumatagal ang turnaround time. Ang gamot kailangan ibigay within 5 days of onset of symptoms," he said.

(If you overload RT-PCR tests, the turnaround time becomes longer. Medicine should be given within 5 days of onset of symptoms.)

At least 2 manufacturers of self-administered COVID-19 test kits are seeking certificates of product registration from the Food and Drug Authority, the Department of Health said Tuesday.

ESCALATE ALERT LEVEL?

The Philippines' healthcare system can manage COVID-19 cases until about January 27 or 28 if Alert Level 3 and the current trend of coronavirus are maintained, Abeyasinghe said.

"We are looking closely at the current Alert Level 3. We are seeing a significant reduction in mobility. If yesterday's reduction in numbers is an indication, maybe the current alert levels are adequate," he said.

"That red line analysis we have done projects we can manage the healthcare system until about the 27, 28 of January given the trends of up to yesterday."

It is important to immediately isolate when a person experiences COVID-19 symptoms to reduce transmission "and the need for stricter quarantine because that has very serious economic consequences," Abeyasinghe said.

"We should try to help people live with this variant rather than locking down. It’s health and economy not health versus economy," he said.

Vaccination efforts must also be increased as it protects people from hospitalization, severe disease and death, he added.