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Which COVID-19 Test You Should Take and Where to Get Them

Bookmark this guide for quick reference.
by Clara Rosales
Jan 25, 2021
Photo/s: I Love Taguig
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The world is working tirelessly to end of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the years since the coronavirus was first reported, a variety of tests sprung up to determine which individuals have it. Testing is key to isolating and preventing an exponential spread of the disease.

Figuring out which test you need for a particular emergency or job can be overwhelming, especially since there are many available commercially. In this guide, we give you a quick rundown of what tests you should take for international flights, domestic travels, your work, and more.

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Which COVID-19 test should you take?

RT-PCR test or swab test

The RT-PCR, or reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction test, is considered the gold standard in COVID-19 testing. Also referred to as a swab test, this method utilizes a long swab inserted into the patient's nostril or mouth to procure samples for testing.

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The type of test is the most expensive, priced at P3,500 to P4,000 depending on where you get it.

Laboratories usually take about 24 to 48 hours to run a test, but the actual time is dependent on factors such as backlogs, load, and availability of equipment.

RT-PCR tests can be done at hospitals, at home, and via drive-thru if the medical establishment offers it.

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Who should take this test?

  • Those looking to fly out of the Philippines will be required to undergo an RT-PCR test, or as required by the destination country. Local carriers like Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific offer RT-PCR packages for passengers.
  • Those who had contact with a probable COVID-19 case are required to take a swab test. Quarantine is mandatory if the individual tests positive.
  • Some local tourist spots require RT-PCR tests. Check with the local government unit, as some require only observance of health standards, while some require a negative RT-PCR result.
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For a list of COVID-19 accredited laboratories, check out the Department of Health's website.

Antibody test

Antibodies are indicators that your body is producing cells to fight off a viral infection. The antibody test, from its name, determines the presence of a person's antibodies. Blood samples are examined for this type of test, and skip the discomfort of the a long swab test.

Asymptomatic patients may actually have COVID-19 in their system but because antibodies are already working to keep the virus out, typical symptoms like fever, coughing, and lack of taste do not manifest. An antibody test can determine if they're actually COVID-free or if they're carrying the virus, or at least once carried it.

Hospitals and laboratories carry this type of testing with a price tag of about P2,200. Some local government units and companies also avail of this test for staff and employees. Hospitals such as The Medical City offer ECLIA Antibody tests.

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Though faster than the RT-PCR or swab test, antibody tests are considered less reliable by medical groups, since these do not generate fully accurate results for COVID-19 screening. 

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Antigen test

Antigen tests also uses swab samples and measures a substance in a person's body that could generate an immune response against COVID-19.

Who should take this test?

  • Those looking to return to their hometowns or provinces can take an antigen test, depending on the requirements of the destination.
  • Some local tourist spots require a negative antigen test before visitors are allowed entry. This applies for both air and ground travel, check our story for more information.

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Saliva testing

This new mode of testing was recently piloted by the Philippine Red Cross and is being pushed as an alternative to the antibody and antigen tests.

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The test eliminates the discomfort of swab testing and only uses saliva as a sample to test for the presence of the virus. Saliva samples are stable at room temperature and don't need cold chain transport, further bringing down costs for COVID-19 testing.

It costs P2,000 and results are out in just three to four hours, as compared to the pricier RT-PCR tests that take 24 to 48 hours to process.

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