The Philippines said Tuesday it cleared the use of antigen-based testing to screen local air travelers for COVID-19. While less conclusive than the gold standard RT-PCR, it is more reliable than the blood-based rapid test.
The antigen test can be used as a substitute for RT-PCR before asymptomatic travelers are allowed to board their flights. It can also be used to screen domestic tourists and local travelers, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.
The Philippines is slowly unwinding a six-month-old quarantine to reopen the economy while preventing a spike in infections. Authorities said cases are going down and the country could flatten the curve for the first time by the end of September.
Much like the RT-PCR test, the antigen tests use nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal swabs to collect specimens from the patient’s nostril. Its main difference with the RT-PCR test is that results can be validated in laboratory or health care settings. RT-PCR tests need a biosafety level 2 laboratory for validation.
If the antigen test shows a positive result, it can be presumed the patient has COVID-19. If it comes up negative, it means the likelihood of having COVID-19 is low.
Health Usec. Rosario Vergeire earlier described the antigen test is more accurate than the more widely available rapid test kits, but it still needs RT-PCR tests to confirm if a patient has the virus.