Pilot antigen test in Baguio fails DOH standards — NTF exec

Published October 14, 2020, 7:42 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

The antigen test tried initially in Baguio City during the opening of its domestic tourism failed to meet the standards of the Department of Health (DOH), dimming hopes of a potential faster way to conduct Coronavirus testing, a task force official confirmed Wednesday.

National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 spokesperson Restituto Padilla Jr.

“Binigyan ng pagkakataon ng DOH na i-pilot test ito sa Baguio City noong nakaraang linggo. Ang antigen test na na-pilot unfortunately ay hindi pumasa so naghahanap pa po tayo ng testing protocol (The DOH pilot tested it in Baguio City last week. The antigen test unfortunately did not pass so we are still looking for other testing protocols),” said National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 spokesperson Restituto Padilla Jr. in a virtual Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum.

According to Padilla, both the antigen test and the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test — the gold standard in COVID-19 testing — were conducted during the opening of local tourism in Baguio City.

However, only about 50 percent of the antigen’s results matched with the PCR’s results, which failed to reach the 85-percent desired match rate recommended by the DOH.

In a separate statement, Padilla clarified that the government is still exploring the availability of the antigen testing since only selected brands of test kits were used in the initial tests in Baguio City. He did not identify the brands.

He said there are a lot of test kits already available in the market and seeking the approval of the DOH.

“The Baguio antigen pilot is still not complete,” Padilla said.

“There are many antigen test kits in the market and the recent pilot was specific to a few of these which remain for evaluation,” he added.

The DOH has chosen Baguio City as the location for the pilot test of antigen testing after it successfully opened its local tourism and because of its efficiency in contact tracing.

While PCR test involves tracing the virus’ genetic material through a swab sample, the antigen test looks for the viral proteins from samples collected through a nasal swab.

The result of the PCR test is usually known after 36 to 48 hours, while that of antigen’s is from 15 to 30 minutes. 

The price of a PCR test in public and private laboratories reportedly ranges from P1,500 to P19,000 while the antigen test was said to be cheaper.

As the economy opens up further, the government also explores various means to expand its COVID-19 testing efforts including the use of saliva and breath tests which also yield faster results than the PCR testing.

“Kapag natuloy ito at nagkaroon ng testing protocol na papasa, iyan po ang gagamitin sa lahat ng ports of entry para mapabilis ang galaw ng tao. (If this continues and a testing protocol passes [the DOH standards], that will be used in all ports of entry to expedite the movement of people),” Padilla said.