IATF okays antigen pilot tests on local travellers

Published September 18, 2020, 3:34 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The government is set to conduct pilot studies on the use of rapid antigen testing for local travelers in the country.

Airline ground staff wearing protective gear work at the counter at the airport in Manila on August 4, 2020. (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / AFP)

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases (IATF) has approved the recommendation of the Department of Health-technical advisory group on the pilot use of antigen testing to screen people traveling to one place to another.

A rapid antigen test is another form of diagnostic test that looks for viral proteins from samples collected through a nasal swab. Test results are validated in the laboratory.

In Resolution No. 72, the IATF allowed authorities to “commence pilot studies on the use of Rapid Antigen Testing (Ag-RDTs) for border screening and serial testing in high-risk to low-risk interzonal travel considering cross-border differences in quarantine status and prevalence level of transmission.” The pilot study will also be implemented in the specialized programs of the tourism department.

The initial antigen testing will be pursued in coordination with the Department of Tourism and Department of Interior and Local Government and with the assistance of the World Health Organization.

Last week, the IATF provisionally adopted the antigen screening protocol for domestic air travelers as recommended by the the Department of Transportation. The health department has been directed to incorporate the use of antigen testing for all domestic travel.

The task force earlier approved the use of antigen test as a substitute for reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test as a pre-boarding requirement for asymptomatic domestic tourists before departure and travel to tourism destinations. PCR testing, that involves detecting the virus’ genetic material from a swab sample, remains the gold standard for confirmatory testing.