DOH: Rapid antigen results not counted in COVID-19 tally

 Shiela Crisostomo

MANILA, Philippines — Despite the record-setting numbers of COVID-19 cases in the past weeks, results of rapid antigen tests are not yet included in the daily case bulletin, the Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday.

At a press briefing, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said rapid antigen test results are not yet counted because of questions on their accuracy and use.

“Many data are submitted to us but we have to validate them. There are local government units that use it inappropriately,” she said, noting that some LGUs use it in “screening employees, going to pictorials and going to weddings. That is not the appropriate use of antigen so the results cannot be accepted.”

The official said antigen test should be used only for “those with symptoms, suspects, probable, exposed and in outbreak areas.”

Vergeire said some LGUs submitted their antigen results not through the DOH’s COVID-19 Document Repository System (CDRS) so their reports are not considered valid.

“From the past run, there were 10,000 reported positive results from antigen. But when we checked, only 3,000 of them are valid,” Vergeire said.

She emphasized that these situations must be fixed first before antigen test results can be included in the COVID-19 daily tally. Otherwise, it might lead to “inaccurate report of positive cases.”

Based on DOH Circular No.2021-0350, antigen tests can only be used as substitute for reverse transcript-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) for diagnostic testing of suspect, including symptomatic and asymptomatic close contacts who fit the suspect case definitions and probable case in certain settings.

These settings are in the community when RT-PCR is insufficient, in hospitals when the turnaround time is critical to guide patients’ cohort management and the community during outbreaks for quicker case findings.

Antigen test kits must be certified by the Food and Drug Administration with “sensitivity and specificity in conformity with the Health Technology Assessment Council.”

DFA personnel deaths

One Philippine ambassador and at least four Filipino foreign service workers have died abroad due to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic last year, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Brigido Dulay yesterday said on “Agenda” over One News.

“We have one ambassador who already died because of COVID. We have around four personnel who died because of COVID. So, they are in the same boat as our overseas Filipino workers. Except in our case, it’s our job to serve, to help them,” Dulay said.

In April 2020, the DFA confirmed that then Philippine ambassador to Lebanon Bernardita Catalla, 62, died due to complications from COVID-19.

As of Sept. 13, the DFA said there are 23,115 Filipinos who have contracted the virus in 103 countries or territories. A total of 1,382 have died, while 13,328 have recovered. Some 8,405 cases were undergoing treatment as of latest data. – Janvic Mateo

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