DOH warns vs antigen tests for screening
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) has warned anew against the indiscriminate use of rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 screening in workplaces and in public events.
The rapid tests are appropriate only to test people with COVID-19 symptoms and those who have been exposed to infected people.
“But if used as screening to go to work or to go to an event like weddings or birthday parties where there will be many people, [the antigen test] will not give the correct result,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said at a briefing on Monday.
Using rapid antigen tests for screening would be a waste of resources and would yield inaccurate results, she added.
“Once we have false negative results, many people will be going around unknowingly spreading the virus,” Vergeire said.
A positive antigen test result still has to be confirmed through an RT-PCR test.
While the most accurate COVID-19 test, the RT-PCR test is expensive and costs around P3,000, the specimen taken from a swab from the nose and mouth has to be processed in a laboratory for a day or two.
The DOH explained that rapid antigen tests are useful during the “acute phase of the disease,” which is within five days after the onset of symptoms.
The health department said RT-PCR testing “remains to be the gold standard for confirming the presence of SARS-CoV-2.”
—DONA Z. PAZZIBUGAN
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