Palace defends use of rapid tests in COVID-19 fight

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 04 2020 06:20 PM

Tricycle riders in Marikina City undergo mass testing using rapid test kits for COVID-19 on May 19, 2020 amid the modified enhanced community quarantine. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - Rapid antibody tests have a purpose in the country's pandemic response strategy, Malacañang said Tuesday after a group of health professionals warned against the inaccuracy of the tests.

Dr. Antonio Dans, spokesperson of the Healthcare Professions Alliance against COVID-19, said the widespread use of rapid test kits by local governments and offices as a requirement before workers could return to their jobs could have led to the rise in coronavirus infections. 

But Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said such tests serve as "initial screening" in detecting the virus.

"Hindi po talaga siya ginagamit para malaman kung sino ang may sakit, ginagamit lang po siya para malaman kung sino iyong mayroon nang antibodies na posibilidad na nagkasakit na nang sa ganoon ay makabalik sa kanilang mga trabaho," Roque said during a Palace press briefing.

(It's not really used to detect who is sick but to know who has antibodies and to see who can return to work)

The government uses rapid tests even if local doctors' associations said they do not recommend it to screen employees returning to work.

Roque explained rapid tests are used as there are not enough RT-PCR test kits to cover the entire Philippine population of 100 million.

"Gold standard ang PCR pero mayroon din po tayong gamit para sa rapid testing kits," he said.

To boost the country's COVID-19 testing, the Philippines has started the pilot run of pooled testing.

With pooled testing, samples from a group of individuals would be tested as one. 

If the results come back negative, everyone in the group is cleared of COVID-19. But if the results return positive, each individual will be tested separately for the virus.

The pilot run is already being conducted with the help of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and the private sector.

The Philippines on Tuesday reported a record-high of 6,352 additional COVID-19 cases in the country, bringing the total number of confirmed coronavirus infections to 112,593.

With 240 additional recovered patients and 11 new COVID-related deaths, there are now 44,429 active cases in the country. Active cases refer to patients who are still infected with COVID-19 and are staying either in the hospital or under home quarantine.

The total number of recovered patients is now 66,049, while the death toll is 2,115.

-with a report from Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News