Sought for comment whether the local government has plans to halt their coronavirus disease (COVID-19) mass testing drive following concerns raised by health experts about the accuracy of rapid antibody tests, Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso on Thursday (Aug. 6) clarified that the testing at the city’s walk-in and drive-thru facilities is “not [a] rapid test” but a serology test.
Domagoso said the local government is still following the Department of Health’s (DOH) guidelines to use swab tests. But they considered using an “economical,” “scientifically proven,” and “efficient” way of testing, adding that their mass testing using serology machines is “effective” in tracking down positive patients.
The mayor reiterated in a DZBB radio interview that their Abbott serology testing machines have a 99.6 specificity rate and 100 percent accuracy rate, so they can detect IgG or late antibodies of an individual.
He also wrote in a Facebook post: “Tunay na epektibo po ang ginagamit nating Abbott serology testing machines… Nakakatulong din ito sa mabisang contact tracing at surveillance ng COVID-19 cases sa mga komunidad na siya ring ginagamit sa ibang bansa (The Abbott serology testing machines that we are using are truly effective. They are also helpful in effective contact tracing and surveillance of COVID-19 cases in communities, which are also being used abroad).”
In an online forum on Tuesday, health experts opposed the use of rapid antibody tests, saying these do not accurately detect if a person is infected with COVID-19 and that their use might have helped spread the coronavirus.
Dr. Antonio Dans of the Philippine Society of General Internal Medicine said rapid tests only determine whether a person has built up antibodies against COVID-19, and not against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease.
“Hindi naman ‘yung virus ‘yung nakikita niya eh, nakikita niya ‘yung antibody (It does not detect the virus but the antibody),” Dans said.
“Sa tingin namin, ang paggamit ng rapid test sa workplace, naging problema at nakadagdag sa paglaganap ng COVID-19 (We think the use of [the] rapid test in the workplace has become a problem and has contributed to the spread of COVID-19),” he added.
Domagoso explained over DZBB on Thursday: “We don’t just trace people ng laway-laway lang (only through saliva). You know, there are a lot of ideas and concepts which I respect. Kanya-kanya naman kaming ideas sa tracing (We each have different ideas on tracing).”
“In fact, DOH, [for] that matter, has also the same machine — lahat halos ng hospitals, including private known hospitals, so ginagamit ‘yung serology testing na ito (as do almost all hospitals, including the private known hospitals, so this serology testing is used),” he added.
Moreno said the city’s effort aims to track down all possible virus carriers as the country has not yet “massively swab-tested” the public.
“So sa madaling salita, kino-corner na natin ‘yung COVID-19. Kasi let’s be honest to ourselves, kahit ano pang gawin nila, ano pang sabihin nila, hanggang ngayon di pa nila na-massive ang testing ng swab (In short, we are cornering COVID-19. Because let’s be honest to ourselves, whatever they do and say, up to now they have not yet conducted massive swab testing),” he said.