MANILA — The government eyes ramping up the novel coronavirus detection in Metro Manila and its 4 surrounding provinces by rolling out 30,000 rapid antigen tests daily, an official said on Tuesday.
About 51,000 RT-PCR coronavirus tests, the gold standard of screening, are being run nationwide daily, said Vince Dizon, deputy chief implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19.
"Kailangan itaas natin ito. At para gawin iyan, kailangan mag-augment tayo ng ating PCR testing sa NCR, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna at Rizal," he said in a press briefing, referring to the areas currently under the strictest of 4 lockdown levels.
"Nagdesisyon po ang IATF (inter-agency task force) na magdagdag po tayo ng 30,000 antigen tests per day," he added.
(We need to increase that. And to do that, we have to augment the PCR testing in NCR, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal. The IATF decided that we add 30,000 antigen tests per day.)
An antigen test measures a portion of the SARS-CoV-2 virus using swab samples, similar to the gold-standard PCR or polymerase chain reaction test.
While it is not as accurate as a PCR test, it is said to be better at testing patients than rapid antibody test kits. Antigen tests can also process results as fast as 15 minutes.
With the use of antigen tests, the country's daily COVID-19 screening output would reach 80,000 to 90,000, Dizon said.
Antigen tests for NCR Plus will be limited to patients and healthcare workers in hospitals, and in barangays with a high prevalence of infections, he said.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said antigen tests would be used "as soon as supplies are here."
She said that for the first time, positive antigen test results would be included in the country's daily tally of new COVID-19 cases.
Those who take antigen tests would no longer need to take PCR screening, she said.
"The accuracy of antigen tests are acceptable once used in outbreaks—as many are exposed or symptomatic to the disease," Vergeire said in a text message to ABS-CBN News.
NCR Plus is under enhanced community quarantine until April 4, and officials would meet on whether or not to extend this.
ECQ curbs include night curfews, and a ban on mass gatherings and non-essential movement. Only some businesses are allowed to operate at full on-site capacity under this quarantine level.
— Report from Kristine Sabillo and Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News