MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has directed the Department of Health (DOH) to finalize the guidelines for the use of rapid antibody test kits with approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles made this remark after Duterte on Monday (April 13) ordered the immediate purchase of PHP 3.3 billion worth of rapid antibody test kits to boost government capacity to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Pursuant to the directive of the President, the Department of Health in coordination with its technical advisory group is directed to finalize guidelines for the supplementary utilization of FDA approved rapid antibody test kits,” he said in a virtual presser on Thursday.

The DOH earlier said rapid antibody test kits yield results in three hours, compared to Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test kits which take at least five to seven days.

The department considers the use of PCR-based test kits as the “gold standard” for diagnosing Covid-19 infections.

Nograles, however, explained that rapid antibody tests will still be subjected to PCR confirmatory tests as recommended by the DOH.

“But the good thing about the rapid test kits din pala, as explained to us by the epidemiologists, is it also can be used to confirm kung iyong pasyente (if a patient) who is being treated ng Covid-19 is already cleared to go,” he said.

He said the DOH is currently studying whether patients who used the rapid test kits and yielded negative results could be set free without having to go through PCR confirmatory tests.

“That would remove some pressure doon sa lab-based, kung puwede na lang na ang (if they would allow it as a) clearance mechanism for patients is through the rapid test kits,” he added.

‘Additional safeguard’

In a separate virtual presser, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque described rapid antibody test kits as an “additional safeguard” to ensure the health of Duterte.

“Please understand that the rapid testing is additional safeguard, but the primary safeguard is no one who suffers from any symptoms and no one who has had any contacts with anyone with Covid-19 will be allowed in the Palace,” he said.

Earlier, Roque said government officials and other individuals who wish to visit Duterte at Malacañan Palace in Manila are now required to undergo rapid antibody testing.

“We make no apologies for the fact that we are protecting the life of the President. Gagamitin natin ang lahat ng resources na puwede natin gamitin para protektahan ang Presidente dahil ang Presidente po hinalal ng taongbayan para mamuno sa kanila lalong-lalo na sa panahong krisis gaya nito (We will use all our resources to protect the President because the President was elected by the citizens to lead especially during a crisis such as now),” he said.

Roque said the government aims to have at least 900,000 PCR test kits and about 2.2 million rapid test kits to have an “accurate statistical sample” of the extent of the pandemic in the country.

Targeted mass testing started on Tuesday (April 14).

The goal is to conduct at least 8,000 to 10,000 tests per day by the end of April, Nograles said.

Currently, the DOH said there are 16 laboratories that can conduct PRC testing for Covid-19.

As of Thursday, health authorities reported a total of 5,660 confirmed cases of Covid-19, 362 deaths, and 435 recoveries. (PNA)

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