DOH: Use of antigen tests up for review after WHO warning

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 14) — The rule allowing the use of rapid antigen testing for domestic air travel will be reviewed by the Inter-Agency Task Force following a recommendation from the World Health Organization, a health official said on Monday.

Health Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said the IATF Resolution No. 69, which allows the use of antigen tests as substitute for the RT-PCR tests for asymptomatic local travelers, was caught in a "bottleneck" following the recent WHO pronouncement.

"Sabi ng WHO recommendation it is not advisable to use it sa borders. Magkakaroon ng effect sa ginagawang guidelines, we recommended this be used sa borders and incoming tourists," she said in a media forum.

[Translation: In WHO's recommendation, it said it is not advisable to use this test in borders. This will have an effect on our guidelines because we allowed its use in borders and incoming travel.]

She said health experts will review the current IATF rules to ensure that the country's guidelines are aligned with the recommendation of global health experts.

The IATF on September 7 allowed the use of antigen tests instead of RT-PCR as a pre-boarding requirement for asymptomatic local tourists. It can also be integrated as part of the requirements before a person can enter the destination as long as a confirmatory antigen testing will be done 3 to 5 days after their arrival. COVID-19 task force spokesperson Harry Roque added antigen tests can be used to test domestic tourists who suddenly show flu-like symptoms in instances where there are no available RT-PCR test kits, which remains to be the "gold standard" in detecting the virus.

The antigen test works by looking for a unique part of the novel coronavirus, such as a specific protein in one of its namesake "corona." If that specific protein spikes and is present in detectable quantities, then the test will show a positive result. The government previously issued a guideline that rapid antibody testing cannot be used to screen the presence of SARS-CoV-2 as it can only detect if the person has developed antibodies against the virus.