Villafuerte bats for use of rapid antigen tests nationwide

Published April 3, 2021, 1:35 PM

by Mario Casayuran

 While the government awaits the arrival of the ordered anti-coronavirus jabs for its vaccine rollout plan, Camarines Sur Representative Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte on Saturday, April 3, urged authorities to complement strict mobility restrictions with a “more aggressive” testing drive in the country using rapid antigen tests.

(JANSEN ROMERO / MANILA BULLETIN)


         The reimposition of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the National Capital Region (NCR) and four neighboring provinces comprising the “NCR Plus” bubble was expected to temper the latest surge in the number of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the country.
         Villafuerte, however, maintained that “a more aggressive” Test, Trace, Treat  (T3) drive “alone is our best shot at preventing future infection surges,” citing the discovery of more transmissible COVID-19 variants.
         The Bicol region lawmaker welcomed the new government target of conducting 90,000 to 100,000 COVID-19 tests per day in the NCR Plus bubble via the combined use of reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and rapid antigen tests.                 “Although the use of antigen testing is long overdue, this new policy is nonetheless a welcome development that will hopefully clear the way to the implementation of a more aggressive T3 strategy for the government to  eventually temper, if not reverse, the fresh surge in coronavirus infections,” Villafuerte said in his statement.
         He also called on implementers of the government’s anti-COVID-19 response to green-light the use of antigen testing not only in “NCR Plus” areas but in all other parts of the country as well, to improve the testing, tracing and treatment capabilities of local government units (LGUs).   
         He stressed the urgency for the government to ramp up its mass testing as he pointed to a recent World Bank assessment report that the Philippines’ reliance on long lockdowns in lieu of a test-based strategy at the onset of the pandemic was responsible for the continued economic slowdown at a time when other economies in the region have started to recover.
         The World Bank report revealed that the Philippines has conducted only 17 tests per confirmed COVID-19 case, as against 4,277 tests in Vietnam; 2,080 in Laos; 1,853 in China; 897 in Cambodia and 244 in Malaysia.
         The same report said that because of mass testing, lockdowns were not as severe in these economies, and gross domestic product (GDP)  growth was at 2.9 percent in Vietnam, 2.3 percent in China, 0.4 percent in Laos, minus 3.1 percent in Cambodia and minus 5.6 percent in Malaysia in 2020. The Philippines posted a GDP growth of minus 9.5 percent last year.
         Villafuerte pointed out that countries such as the United States (US), Canada, Italy, France and Germany have turned to the faster and cheaper antigen tests to avoid the undue delays in efforts to detect, trace and treat COVID-infected people.
         Rapid antigen testing is a relatively cheaper test in both point-of-care and laboratory settings to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus that is responsible for COVID-19. Test results are available in about 15 minutes, compared to the RT-PCR testing, whose turnaround time usually takes two to three days. 

   —– ORIGINAL TEXT ——

UH0403

by Mario B Casayuran

Villafuerte bats for use of rapid antigen testing nationwide

         While it awaits the arrival of the bulk of the ordered anti-virus jabs for its vaccine rollout plan, Camarines Sur Representative LRay Villafuerte has called on the government to complement its stricter mobility restrictions with an aggressive T3—test, trace and treat—drive as a more decisive strategy to contain the latest surge in COVID-19 infections.

         The return of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the National Capital Region and four neighboring provinces comprising the “NCR Plus” bubble—is expected to temper the number of cases that hit a record 10,000-plus daily tally last March 29.

         Villafuerte maintained that “a more aggressive T3 drive alone is our best shot at preventing future infection surges, especially with the advent of more transmissible Covid-19 variants.”

         The Bicol region lawmaker welcomed the new government target of conducting 90,000 to 100,000 Covid-19 tests per day via the combined use of reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and rapid antigen tests.

         From the daily average of 50,000 tests, the  Department of Health (DOH) has increased the target to 100,000 after the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) authorized the use of antigen testing,  especially in the “NCR Plus” bubble comprising Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal.

         These areas reported an  alarming spike in Covid-19 cases.

         “Although the use of antigen testing is long overdue, this new policy is nonetheless a welcome development that will hopefully clear the way to the implementation of a more aggressive T3 strategy for the government to  eventually temper, if not reverse, the fresh surge in coronavirus infections,” Villafuerte said.

         Villafuerte also called on implementers of the government’s anti-COVID-19 response to green-light the use of antigen testing not only in ‘NCR Plus” areas but in all other parts of the country as well, to improve the testing, tracing and treatment capabilities of local government units (LGUs).   

         He stressed the urgency for the government to ramp up its mass testing as he pointed to a recent World Bank assessment report that the Philippines’ reliance on long lockdowns in lieu of a test-based strategy at the onset of the pandemic was responsible for the continued economic slowdown at a time when other economies in the region have started to recover.

         The World Bank report revealed that the Philippines has conducted only 17 tests per confirmed COVID-19 case, as against 4,277 tests in Vietnam; 2,080 in Laos; 1,853 in China; 897 in Cambodia and 244 in Malaysia.

         The same report said that because of mass testing, lockdowns were not as severe in these economies, and  gross domestic product (GDP)  growth was at 2.9 percent in Vietnam, 2.3 percent in China, 0.4 percent in Laos, minus 3.1 percent in Cambodia and minus 5.6 percent in Malaysia in 2020. The Philippines posted a GDP growth of minus 9.5 percent last year. Rapid antigen testing is a relatively inexpensive test in both point-of-care and laboratory settings to detect the SARS-CoV02 virus that is responsible for Covid-19. Test results are available in about 15 minutes, compared to the costlier real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) whose turnaround time usually takes 2-3 days. 

         Villafuerte pointed out that countries such as the United States (US), Canada, Italy, France and Germany have turned to the faster and cheaper antigen tests to avoid the undue delays in efforts to detect, trace and treat COVID-infected people.

 
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