DOH still studying antigen test for tourism revival


Posted at Sep 29 2020 10:43 AM

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MANILA — The Department of Health said Tuesday it was still studying the use of antigen tests to further reopen the tourism industry that the coronavirus pandemic had shuttered for nearly 7 months.

The inter-agency task force leading the pandemic response gave the DOH 2 weeks to study the use of antigen screening in a pilot test in Baguio City, and weigh results against the World Health Organization's advice to refrain from using this test for border screening, said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire. 

"We are trying to see if government can use it as well so we can have this more efficient and faster turnaround," she told ANC. 

"We need to wait for this pilot use... so that when our experts provide their recommendations on the appropriate use of antigen, our results will be accurate. It's not going to give us false positives or false negatives," she added. 

The antigen test analyzes nasal and oral specimen, and can yield results in 15 minutes, testing czar COVID-19 testing czar Vince Dizon earlier said. 

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 added. 

Resort island Boracay will reopen to tourists from Metro Manila and those outside Western Visayas on Thursday. They will be required to take a PCR test 48 to 72 hours before their trip, the tourism department earlier said. 
Bohol might also reopen in October, said Malacañang. 

"When the IATF discussed the opening of tourist spots, health was considered foremost so minimum health standards, strict monitoring, symptoms-based screening and of course this testing that are being required by local government units," said Vergeire. 
The health department has tallied 307,288 coronavirus infections, of which 49,242 were active as of Monday.