By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette Herrera on Wednesday strongly rallied behind President Duterte’s directive to purchase rapid antibody test kits to strengthen the country’s testing capacity for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The House Deputy Majority Leader branded as “sound judgement” the President’s decision to procure the COVID-19 antibody test kits “immediately.”
“President Duterte has once again demonstrated sound judgment, which is essential, and perhaps one of the most crucial assets required of a leader, especially during this time. I have no doubt that his sound judgment and strong leadership would help us all get through this unprecedented public health crisis,” Herrera said.
In his televised address on Monday, President Duterte said he would ask Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to exhaust all means to ensure the immediate procurement of COVID-19 antibody test kits.
Herrera said the planned purchase of the rapid antibody test kits will complement the standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay test which is being used in the country to detect persons infected with COVID-19.
She noted that the World Bank (WB) highly recommended the use of both tests—antibody and PCR assay for nations that implemented economically costly suppression measures while containing the pandemic crisis.
“Experts say antibody testing could play a crucial role in easing coronavirus lockdowns around the world and reviving economies, so why not give it a try?” Herrera said insisting that mass testing is needed to contain the spread of COVID-19.
She explained that the antibody test, which identifies those rendered immune after being infected by the coronavirus disease, could be the way out of the enhanced community quarantine, while vaccines against COVID-19 are being developed.
“Through antibody tests, we can identify those who are already immune and can go back safely to work, and help reignite the economy,” she said.
The antibody test can also help in instigating a potential COVID-19 treatment known as convalescent plasma therapy, where antibodies are taken from a person who has survived the disease and transferred to someone who is sick, Herrera said.
“If PCR assay testing, together with tracing and isolation, helps reduce the duration of suppression measures by two weeks, and antibody testing allows one-fifth of the immune return to work early, the gain could be about 2 percent of national income, or about $8 billion for a country like the Philippines,” Herrera said, citing the WB’s research and policy brief, entitled “How Two Tests Can Help Contain COVID-19 and Revive the Economy.”
In its briefer, the WB sought the use of PCR assay to test for possible infections in order to facilitate contact tracing and targeted isolation efforts for countries in the early stages of the epidemic.
It added that the antibody test should be used to decide who can be allowed to return to work, giving priority to professions and services that provide essential services, such as health care workers, and require greater human contact.
“That is, workers who rank high on both ‘essential’ and ‘needed for proximity’ dimensions should be tested first,” the WB briefer said.