Saliva COVID-19 test can be used for travel: PH Red Cross

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 26 2021 10:07 AM | Updated as of Jan 26 2021 10:22 PM

The Philippine Red Cross conducts its Saliva RT-PCR Test pilot at the PRC' headquarters in Mandaluying City on January 12, 2021, simultaneously with 15 DOH hospitals. The pilot testing is in compliance with the DOH requirements to secure full approval of the new alternative testing method. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE) - Cheaper and non-invasive saliva COVID-19 test can be used by those taking a trip abroad, those taking the Bar exams and even students before they return to classrooms, the Philippine Red Cross said Tuesday.

The non-government organization on Monday launched the saliva COVID-19 test in its Metro Manila laboratories and is aiming to roll it out across the country by February, its chairman Sen. Richard Gordon said.

The procedure, priced at around P2,000, also uses polymerase chain reaction just like the gold standard RT-PCR test which is required in airports and tourist destinations nationwide.

The Red Cross can lower the price to P1,500 if there is a huge volume in testing, Gordon said.

"Pinayagan na 'yan ng DOH (Department of Health), pati sa airport payag na lahat d'yan. May PCR 'yan, hindi nawala ang PCR. We cannot do it without the PCR. Otherwise you’ll have bad results," he told ANC's Headstart.

(It's been approved by the DOH, including in airports. It has PCR, it wasn't removed.)

"It’s almost equally accurate as the gold standard. (RT-)PCR is still the gold standard, that’s why we’re not letting it go. In our test we had about 99 percent (accuracy) sa (RT-)PCR, 98 percent sa saliva."

The saliva COVID-19 test can also be used by workers, students, and Bar examinees, Gordon said.

"Nag-usap kami ni Justice (Marvic) Leonen kahapon, 2 taon na silang di nagba-Bar. Bago mag-Bar they can do the saliva test within 14 days then they can take the Bar. Uniformed services they can take that," he said.

(Justice Leonen and I talked yesterday, they have not held the Bar in 2 years. The examinees can do the saliva test before the Bar and within 14 days they can take the exam.)

"For the school children, they can now go to school because now makikita natin sino ang maaaring nagdadala ng sakit at maaayos natin kaagad (we can see who may carry the virus and we can resolve it right away)."

Gordon said the procedure should be covered by state insurer PhilHealth, which has incurred millions of debt to the PRC due to coronavirus testing of returning Filipino migrant workers.

"It should be according to the secretary of Health. I think they should be jumping with joy because instead of paying us more, they are paying us less," he said.

According to the PRC, its saliva RT-PCR test uses the same system as the system used with the nasopharyngeal swab samples. Instead of having a swab inserted into one's nostrils and throat, a person would have to deposit 1.5 ml to 2 ml of saliva through a straw into a container. 

"The new saliva collected system has the advantage of being far more comfortable than the swab system, which most patients find painful. It is also more cost efficient, making more affordable for the population. Additionally, processing of the sample in the testing machine takes less time, allowing for release of results in approximately 6 to 12 hours," the PRC said in a statement.

The senator, meantime, reiterated the importance of testing even as the country secured supplies of COVID-19 vaccines.

"You cannot do away with testing kahit meron ka nang vaccine kailangan magti-test ka. Kailangan may protection ka pa ng face mask, hugas ng kamay, atsaka distancing," he said.

(You cannot do away with testing even if you already have a vaccine, you need to test. You still need protection like face masks, frequent handwashing, and physical distancing.)

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