Docs’ group reiterates: COVID-19 rapid tests not that effective, could lead to further harm


Posted at May 24 2020 06:02 AM | Updated as of May 24 2020 02:53 PM

MANILA--A doctors' group on Friday reiterated its warning against using rapid antibody tests for COVID-19 after a presidential adviser pushed to use it to screen employees returning to work, as the country prepares to open more businesses after months of lockdown.

The Philippine Society of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (PSMID) said in a statement that the "inappropriate" use of rapid test kits could lead to "unintended harm" to workers, frontliners and the "already strained" health system of the country.

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion earlier berated doctors and frontliners after several medical associations said they would not recommend rapid antibody tests to screen employees returning to work during the pandemic.

Concepcion had said doctors who complain about the use of rapid test kits are a "problem," warning that a return to a strict lockdown would destroy the economy. He added that these frontliners "keep on talking but do nothing."

He later apologized, saying he has "nothing but the utmost gratitude and admiration for the doctors and frontliners who continue to do a great service for our country during this crisis."

Concepcion said that he only pointed out "that a select group of doctors are against efforts to test employees using a combination of antibody rapid test and RT (reverse transcription) PCR."

But the PSMID said that he attacked all physicians and doctors of other specialties in the country, as the statement on which he based his outrage were signed by several medical associations whose members are from different parts of the country.

The PSMID said it has offered a better option for workers and the government since the country needs to get the economy running again after over two months of strict lockdown in Metro Manila and other areas.

"If he (Concepcion) had read our guidelines, he would have learned that we offered a better option to clear people for work -- the 14-day test (absence of symptoms for 14 days from time of exposure for contacts, and from time of relief and symptoms for suspects and cases)," the PSMID said.

"This clinical test is more accurate than the antibody test and it incurs no additional costs for laboratory procedures."

The doctors said they agree with Concepcion's belief that another lockdown would be bad for the national economy, but "unnecessary laboratory tests" for rapid test kits could worsen the situation.

The PSMID said it respects Concepcion's right to express his opinion, but urged him to try to understand its position.

"We do not wish to pick a fight with you, Mr. Concepcion. We cannot be enemies. We already have a formidable one and that is COVID-19," the group said.

After 2 months of strict lockdown, Metro Manila and surrounding provinces were placed under a more relaxed modified enhanced community quarantine on May 16.

Businesses in some areas throughout the country were allowed to resume operations.

Officials and health experts warned, however, that as people return to their jobs without mass and conclusive testing, another wave of COVID-19 cases could occur.