MANILA — The health department urges businesses to screen their workers randomly for the novel coronavirus through rapid tests every 2 weeks, an official said Thursday, as the country continued to restart the economy with relaxed lockdowns.
Rapid tests detect the presence of antibodies, which only emerge between the fifth and seventh day of illness, said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.
The test is not recommended for mass screening and should instead be used on a random sample of workers, she told ANC.
"Para lang po makikita ninyo, mamo-monitor n'yo po iyong trend—kung nagkakaroon talaga ng kaso within your company," she said.
(This is just so you can see, monitor the trend—if there is a case within your company.)
The health department also does not recommend "indiscriminate" nasal swab tests, which experts said were more accurate than rapid tests, Vergeire said.
"Testing is a point-in-time event, meaning if you get tested today, tomorrow if you go out for work, you'll get exposed and then maybe you'll get the disease again... Kaya nga po ayaw natin ng indiscriminate ang testing. Let's go for those high-risk individuals," said the official.
The Philippines has 85 testing laboratories. The government has expanded the testing priority to cover not just those who have other health conditions that make them vulnerable to disease, but essential workers like health workers frontliners, public utility drivers, waiters, teachers, and bank personnel, said Vergeire.
The health department as of Wednesday confirmed 58,850 coronavirus infections, of which 36,260 are active cases.