Philippines rushing to 'keep up' with COVID-19 testing technology, says official

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 03 2020 11:18 AM | Updated as of Sep 03 2020 11:25 AM

A medical technologist administers antibody test for COVID-19 through electrochemiluminescence immunoassay analyzer (ECLIA) method at the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health beside The Medical City in Pasig City on July 08, 2020. The results from the ECLIA antibody test, which promises 100% sensitivity and 100% specificity, are made available 24 hours after extraction. The drive-through testing site is open on Mondays to Sundays from 7AM-6PM.

MANILA — The Philippines has to “keep up” with the rest of the world in regulating new technologies to test for the novel coronavirus, an official said Thursday. 

New COVID-19 screening methods are “coming in at a very fast pace,” examples of which include the saliva test used in Japan and the breath test being developed by Israel, said testing czar COVID-19 testing czar Vince Dizon.  

“Speed is the most important in any response, as we have seen in the experiences of other countries,” he told ANC. 

“Our regulators and our government, I think, have to keep pace with the quickness and changes in the technology for testing for COVID-19. We have to keep up and constantly review and validate these technologies so we that can further improve our response because this is not going to end soon,” he said. 

The Philippines currently has 110 labs that can run about 40,000 tests a day. Results are released on average within 48 to 72 hours, “but it’s still a long time,” said Dizon. 
 
Medical technicians running the labs are also “getting sick, getting tired,” he said. 

The national task force on COVID-19 is pushing regulators to “seriously look into other technologies that are coming up and already being used by other countries in the last couple of weeks months,” like the antigen test, Dizon said. 

This test analyzes nasal and oral specimen, and can yield results in 15 minutes. Similar to the PCR or polymerase chain reaction test, the gold standard in screening, the antigen tests detects “current infection—meaning whether you are infectious now,” he said. 

This is “very different” from a rapid antibody test that detects “traces” of the virus and “whether or not you got the infection in the past.” 

“This will really ramp up our ability to test and test quickly, and make our response more efficient,” he said.

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The Philippines has confirmed 226,440 cases of COVID-19, of which 64,207 were active as of Wednesday.