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DOH reviews WHO guidelines on rapid antigen test 

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Health experts are reviewing the omnibus guidelines of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) on the use of rapid antigen tests to detect COVID-19 following a recommendation by the World Health Organization (WHO), according to the Department of Health (DOH).

In a press briefing, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) will have to revise the guidelines on antigen testing to make sure that the IATF’s rules on the use of test methods are aligned with WHO recommendations.

“We met a bottleneck over the weekend when WHO issued their new recommendations on rapid antigen tests. Because of this new evidence, the HTAC will have to revise the guidelines,” she added.

The IATF is expected to come up with the guidelines detailing the appropriate use of COVID tests that are available in the country. Aside from antigen, the guidelines shall cover rapid antibody test kits and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests.

Based on IATF Resolution No. 96 dated Sept. 7, 2020, the RT-PCR test remains the gold standard in confirmatory testing for COVID-19.

However, the antigen test can be used as a substitute for RT-PCR under various conditions, such as a pre-boarding requirement for asymptomatic local tourists before departure or travel to their destinations.

It is also a requirement upon entry at the place of destination if in accordance with the protocol of the local government. This is provided that “antigen testing may likewise be used in the testing of domestic tourists who turn symptomatic at the place of destination, if without RT-PCR capacity.”

According to Vergeire, the WHO’s position that antigen test “is not advisable to use in borders for screening” will have an impact on the guidelines being formulated by the government.

“We see changes every day because this is an evolving situation. It’s very dynamic because of all these new evidences that are coming out every day… By early next week, we can issue the omnibus guidelines,” she maintained.

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