MANILA— The number of those who tested positive for COVID-19 through rapid antigen tests would now be included in the Philippines' case total, Malacañang said on Friday, as the country continued to battle a spike in infections most likely driven by the Delta variant.
In a public briefing, Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque said the decision was approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 to see the bigger picture on the country's pandemic situation.
"'Yan po ang ating objective para maging mabuti ang picture natin, kung ilan ang total cases natin pero siyempre 'yung mga positibo, subject pa rin 'yan for confirmatory tests," Roque explained.
(That is our objective: to get a better picture of our COVID-19 cases, but of course, those who tested positive for it is subject for confirmatory tests.)
"May kinalaman pa rin ito para mapabuti ang reporting ng COVID-19 cases."
(This is still related to improving our reporting of COVID-19 cases.)
Roque emphasized that local health authorities, which includes the regional IATF and the Department of Health's (DOH) Center for Health Development, would monitor the allocation and the use of antigen kits.
They must ensure that the antigen line tests are consolidated by health facilities, localities, as well as temporary treatment and monitoring facilities.
"Kaugnay nito, ang [DOH], NCR Center for Health Development ay inatasang mag-facilitate ng registration ng facilities na gumagamit ng rapid antigen kits," he noted.
(In relation to this, the DOH, NCR CHD were told to facilitate the registration of facilities who are using rapid antigen kits)
"Augmentation of disease surveillance staff and encoders are considered to ensure that line lists are generated and submitted on a daily basis."
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire last week cautioned the use of rapid antigen tests in COVID-19 reporting, as some supposedly were not used in line of protocol.
The health official also pointed out that out of the 10,000 reports they had from antigen tests, only 3,000 fell into their criteria and were "used properly."
"Among reports that we are getting right now, bina-validate pa rin po namin 'yan pagdating sa rapid antigen tests, mayroon pong specific purpose [ito] at kapag ginamit natin 'yan outside of that purpose, mayroon na pong question sa accuracy nitong nakukuha nilang testing result," Vergeire earlier explained in a public briefing.
(We are still validating the reports from rapid antigen tests. This has a specific purpose, and when you use it outside that purpose, the accuracy will be put in question.)
Despite this, however, she said that localities using antigen screening should consider individuals positive for it as a COVID-19 carrier already, and that they should be quarantined.
The DOH had also said that that antigen test was mostly effective for people who already have symptoms, specifically within the first 5 days of their onset.
This is because the viral load of the patient is at the highest level during this time, the agency added.
To date, the country's COVID-19 testing remains limited, as earlier admitted by National Task Force Against COVID-19 deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon.