The government is looking at using antigen kits to screen travellers before they are allowed in tourist destinations, the Department of Health said Thursday.
The DOH is also studying the possibility of using antigen test kits to augment the country’s testing capacity, said Health Usec. Rosario Vergeire.
“We are currently studying yung buong aspect ng (the whole aspect of) antigen test because IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) is interested in using this antigen testing for tourism bubbles. Ito yung mga areas natin na may tourist spots para pagpasok ng ating mga tourists pwede sila i-antigen test (These are the areas with tourist spots so when tourists enter, they can undergo an antigen test),” she said.
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.
Vergeire said 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.
Leisure travel and activities related to tourism have been suspended since March to slow the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. With looser quarantines introduced a month ago, officials looked into restarting the tourism industry in a bid to help the country’s economy.
However, several areas, including Metro Manila, shifted back to modified enhanced community quarantine following a rise in COVID-19 cases.