Gov’t affirms: rapid antibody testing ‘beneficial’

By Genalyn Kabiling

The government is not backing down from endorsing rapid antibody test kits to detect the potential coronavirus cases despite opposition from some medical groups.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque has asserted that the rapid test kits for coronavirus could be used given the country's limited polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing capacity. Those who test positive in rapid testing, he added, will undergo PCR-based test for confirmation of infection.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announces during a press conference at the Presidential Guest House in Panacan, Davao City on January 4, 2018 that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has decided to terminate the services of Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) Administrator Marcial Quirico Amaro III upon verifying complaints that the administrator has made excessive trips overseas. Amaro's termination from the service is part of the President's commitment to eliminate graft and corruption in government. JOEY DALUMPINES/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

"Wala namang pagkakaiba ang mga doktor sa abogado – iisang siyensiya, ibang opinyon. Isa pong opinyon iyan na huwag na tayong mag-aksaya ng panahon sa rapid testing kits. Pero iyong kabila naman po sinasabi, eh kapag positive naman ang resulta sa rapid testing, puwede naman pong i-verify sa PCR (There is no difference between doctors and lawyers -- one science, different opinions. It's one opinion that we should not waste our time on rapid testing kits but others says if rapid testing result is positive, it can be verified through PCR)," Roque said during a televised press briefing.

"Sa ngayon po dahil wala pa tayong sapat na kakayahan dahil tayo po ay nagbi-build up pa rin ng capacity ng PCR testing eh siguro naman walang mawawala kung ira-rapid testing natin iyong gustong magpa-rapid testing, at iyong mga positive ay ipa-verify natin through PCR (At present since we don't sufficient capacity and we’re building up the capacity of PCR testing, maybe there is nothing to lose if we will conduct rapid test to those who want to take the rapid test. Those found positive can be verified through PCR)," he said.

Roque made the remarks after some medical groups have reportedly opposed the use of rapid antibody test kits for workers as a clearance to return to work. These health experts reportedly expressed concern the rapid tests are just a waste of resources since these could yield to false positive results.

As more businesses are allowed to partially open in modified enhanced community quarantine areas, Roque also clarified that COVID-19 testing of workers is not a requirement before going to work. Employers however may offer such testing to their workers for their health protection.

"Kung iyong mga employers ay sila na iyong magbibigay at magbabayad ng rapid test o di naman kaya ay PCR test, hindi po natin sila pinipigilan. Ang hindi po pupuwede ay mag-require ng test para ikaw ay makabalik sa trabaho (If employers offer and pay for the rapid test or PCR test, we will not stop them. What is not allowed is requiring tests before returning to work)," he said.

Roque also said it was not right for local government units to require rapid testing for workers. "That must be done voluntarily," he added.

On the concerns about the lack of mass transportation, Roque reminded companies to extend assistance to they workers, including providing shuttle services.

"The rule is po, kung talagang hindi kaya magbigay ng shuttle, huwag na po tayong magbukas ‘no dahil iniiwasan pa rin naman natin ang pagkalat ng COVID-19 (The rule is we you can't provide a shuttle, do not open yet because we are trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19," he said.