PH still working on pilot study on antigen testing

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 23 2020 12:08 PM

Navotas City residents undergo swab testing at a gymnasium behind the city hall on August 20, 2020. Residents who came in close contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases are now required by the local government to undergo tests under the Executive Order No. 42 signed by Mayor Toby Tiangco. Those who test positive for the virus are also required to be transferred to community isolation facilities. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The Department of Health will be releasing the Philippines’ omnibus guidelines on its updated COVID-19 response only after a pilot study on antigen testing. 

“Kahapon nag-present kami sa IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19) regarding the protocol natin for this pilot use of the antigen (testing) in this city (Baguio) here in the country,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual briefing.

(Yesterday we presented to the IATF regarding our protocol for the pilot use of the antigen in this city here in the country. )

“Ito ay naaprubahan. Ito ay uumpisahan na,” she added. “Pagkatapos natin makuha itong ebidensya sa pilot use na ito, natin nang pwedeng ilabas itong omnibus guidelines natin.”

(It was approved. It will soon start. After we get the evidence from the pilot use, we can release the omnibus guidelines.)

The DOH has been mentioning the release of the omnibus guidelines for testing and other measure since August but its release was further delayed when the World Health Organization released its advise on how to use antigen testing. 

While the rapid antigen test is said to be better than the rapid antibody test, it is not as accurate as polymerase chain reaction test, the gold standard for COVID-19 testing. However, antigen testing is faster and less expensive. The WHO said antigen tests are not recommended for border screening, which was the initial plan of the Philippine government.

Baguio City has been identified as the site of the pilot use study for antigen testing.

Vergeire emphasized that the omnibus guidelines will cover the government’s different COVID-19 response strategies.

“This is for testing and detection and then isolation and quarantine. And of course management,” she said. “This will be a whole document where all of these updated strategies will be included.”