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DOH to revise guidelines after WHO discourages antigen test for travelers


The Department of Health (DOH) will revise its guidelines on the antigen test for detecting COVID-19 after the World Health Organization (WHO) discouraged its use for travelers, an official said Monday.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the WHO has released new recommendations saying "it is not advisable" to use the antigen test for border screenings.

The Philippine government last week allowed the use of the antigen test as a pre-boarding requirement for asymptomatic domestic tourists before departure and travel to tourist destinations or as a requirement upon entry at the place of destination, if in accordance with the protocols of the local government unit.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the antigen test may also be used on domestic tourists who become symptomatic at their destination if that place does not have RT-PCR testing, which he said remains the "gold standard" for COVID-19 tests.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, the antigen tests “quickly detect fragments of proteins found on or within the virus by testing samples collected from the nasal cavity using swabs.”

The DOH earlier said it was targeting to release the omnibus guidelines for COVID-19 testing procedures this week, but Vergeire said Monday that the new WHO recommendation was a "bottleneck" they met over the weekend.

She said the DOH will present the guidelines to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease after the revision.

Vergeire said the DOH will study the matter further, explaining that there is also support for the use of the antigen test.

"Titingnan natin because there are also other evidence na pino-point out naman na maaari namang gawin but there are specific conditions," she said at a virtual press briefing.

If the revised recommendations are presented to the IATF on Tuesday or Thursday, the department can issue the omnibus guidelines for COVID-19 testing procedures "early next week," Vergeire said.

She said the new release from the WHO shows that the COVID-19 situation is "evolving" and "very dynamic." —KBK, GMA News