DOH: RT-PCR tests 'still effective' as authorities study 'undetectable' COVID-19 variant

Angela Coloma, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 17 2021 01:17 PM

Health care workers in full PPE suits administer RT-PCR tests for COVID-19 at a private company in Quezon City on April 10, 2021. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The RT-PCR test, considered the gold standard in COVID-19 testing, is "still effective" in detecting the virus, the Department of Health said Saturday amid concerns over a variant that supposedly escapes detection. 

In a public press briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said findings concerning a French COVID-19 variant reflected a small population, adding that these reports have also been disputed by "credible institutions." 

"Ang article na lumabas na ito napakaliit ng population na nakitaan nila na hindi na-detect apparently sa RT-PCR pero ito ay pinabulaanan ng experts coming from Johns Hopkins and Stanford at iba pang credible institution," Vergeire said. 

(The article says that it was found to be undetected in a very small population through an RT-PCR test. But this has already been disputed by experts coming from Johns Hopkins and Stanford and other credible institutions.) 

Video courtesy of PTV

Vergeire added that those in the field of diagnostic testing should study whether or not it would affect how COVID-19 tests are done, should this be proven. 

For now, she said standard RT-PCR swab tests are "still effective to detect the virus." 

French authorities in mid-March have said they were investigating a variant found in the western Brittany region that appeared to be difficult to detect through tests. For now though, it does not appear to be more dangerous or contagious.

OCTA Research had urged the DOH to scale up contact-tracing efforts and enforce a mandatory quarantine period for those arriving from overseas. 

From April 10, government data has shown that it has detected 1 case of the variant first found in Brazil (P.1), 170 cases of the variant first found in the United Kingdom (B.1.17), 192 cases of the variant first detected in South Africa (B.1.3.5.1), and 19 cases of the variant first found in the Philippines (P.3).