MANILA- The Philippines has started "expanded testing" for the new coronavirus disease as the country seeks to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Here's what you need to know about expanded testing according to the country's pandemic task force:
WHAT IS EXPANDED TESTING?
Expanded testing means testing all individuals who are at risk of contracting COVID-19, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, spokesperson of the task force, said.
This includes suspect cases or individuals with relevant history of travel and exposure or contact, and health care workers with possible exposure to the disease.
The government does not recommend testing persons who did not have close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case.
WHO SHOULD BE PRIORITIZED?
The following, in order, should be prioritized for COVID-19 testing:
-Patients or healthcare workers with severe or critical symptoms, have travel history or exposure to a confirmed COVID-19 case
-Patients or healthcare workers with mild symptoms, have travel history or exposure to a confirmed COVID-19 case, and are considered vulnerable
-Patients or healthcare workers with mild symptoms, have travel history or exposure to a confirmed COVID-19 case
-Patients or healthcare workers with no symptoms but have travel history or exposure to a confirmed COVID-19 case
The Department of Health has defined exposure to COVID-19 as face-to-face contact for at least 15 minutes with a confirmed case within a 1-meter distance, direct physical contact with a confirmed case, and caring for a probable or confirmed case without using personal protective equipment.
Due to the global shortage of COVID-19 testing kits and limitations in testing capacity, Nograles said the government would prioritize those with severe symptoms and vulnerable ones with mild symptoms. Healthcare workers will also be prioritized.
The government has directed all accredited subnational laboratories to allocate between 20 to 30 percent of their daily testing capacity for health workers and the remaining 70 to 80 percent for patients, Nograles said.
WHAT ARE THE TESTING PROTOCOLS?
Real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing is the confirmatory test for COVID-19, Nograles said.
Rapid test kits meanwhile must be used in conjunction with PCR test kits and should not be used as standalone tests.
HOW WILL RAPID TEST KITS BE USED?
1. Rapid test kits will be explored for use on patients or healthcare workers with no symptoms but have travel history or exposure to a confirmed COVID-19 case, Nograles said.
2. Results of such tests shall be submitted to the Department of Health and to the Health Technology Assessment Council for review and consideration.
3. Only licensed medical doctors may request and administer rapid tests.
4. Returning overseas Filipino workers can be subject to a rapid COVID-19 test before starting their mandatory 14-day quarantine. They may be tested again upon finishing the quarantine.
5. Rapid test kits can be used in areas with suspected COVID-19 community-based transmission. It can be performed at the barangay level in coordination with local health officials.
The Philippines eyes to conduct 8,000 to 10,000 COVID-19 tests by the end of April.
As of Sunday, the Philippines has a cumulative 6,259 confirmed COVID-19 cases. This includes 409 deaths, and 572 recoveries.