Expanded testing: Who should undergo COVID-19 PCR tests?

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 21 2020 09:30 PM

MANILA — As the Philippines reached its 1 million COVID-19 tests milestone, the Department of Health (DOH) has released another update on its expanded testing guidelines.

Dated July 6 and released to media on Tuesday, Department Memorandum no. 2020-0258-A further expands the groups that are allowed to undergo polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing for COVID-19. 

From just 4 subgroups in March to 2 more in May, the July update contains 4 more subgroups, including general workers. Overseas Filipino workers and locally stranded individuals were also added to Subgroup D.

Below is a list of those who can avail of PCR testing, which is the only approved way to confirm if you have COVID-19 in the Philippines:

Subgroup A: Individuals with severe/critical symptoms, relevant history of travel/contact 

Subgroup B: Individuals with mild symptoms, relevant history of travel/contact, and considered vulnerable (elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions)

Subgroup C: Individuals with mild symptoms, relevant history of travel/contact or high risk of exposure

Subgroup D: Individuals with no symptoms but with relevant history of travel/contact. They include contact-traced individuals (Subgroup D1), health workers (Subgroup D2), returning Overseas Filipino Workers (Subgroup D3) who will be tested at the port of entry, locally stranded individuals (Subgroup D4)

Subgroup E: Frontliners indirectly involved in health care provision such as: (Subgroup E1) personnel manning quarantine facilities and swabbing centers, personnel conducting contact tracing and swabbing; (Subgroup E2) those who live or work in special concern areas such as local government officials, barangay emergency response teams, jail personnel, social workers providing relief assistance, personnel manning quarantine or border control points and one-stop-shops for returning overseas Filipinos may be tested every 2 to 4 weeks

Subgroup F: Other vulnerable patients and those living in confined spaces such as pregnant patients; dialysis patients; immunocompromised patients; those undergoing chemotherapy, radiotherapy and elective surgical procedures with high risk for transmission; tho had organ, bone marrow or stem cell transplant in the past 6 months; those admitted in enclosed institutions such as jails, penitentiaries and mental institutions

Subgroup H: Frontliners in tourist zones: (Subgroup H1) workers in the hospitality and tourism sectors in tourist zones identified by the Department of Tourism such as El Nido, Boracay, Panglao, Coron, Siargao; (Subgroup H2) domestic or foreign travelers prior to entry into any designated tourist zone

Subgroup I: Employees of manufacturing companies and public service providers in economic zones in Special Concern Areas

Subgroup J: Economy workers: (Subgroup J1) Frontline and economic priority workers in transport and logistics, food retail, education, financial services, non-food retail, services, market vendor, construction, water supply and waste management, public sector and mass media; (Subgroup J2) all other employees not covered by above but are required to undergo testing

The revised guidelines state that employees are encouraged to be tested “every quarter” with employers footing the bill “in order to avoid lockdowns" that may do more damage to their companies.

The DOH previously said that it will further expand testing guidelines as it builds the country’s testing capacity. Just recently, it said that it will be able to test 10 million people.