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Zubiri calls for new DOH protocol to guide COVID-19 survivors showing 'false positive' results

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, a COVID-19 survivor, on Wednesday reiterated his call for the Department of Health (DOH) to release guidelines that must be followed by recovered patients in case they test positive again for the virus.

In an interview on ANC, Zubiri said he tested negative on Tuesday after testing positive again for COVID-19 the day before.

He noted that experts say the positive swab test result could have just picked up remnants of the virus since he already recovered from it in April.

"For recovered patients, the problem there is how to distinguish the live and the dead cells. That's the only difference. It's gonna make lives difficult for us and that's why some people are saying you may have to go another different kind of test for recovered patients," Zubiri said, noting that he also took the liberty to undergo an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay or ELISA test just to make sure he is alright.

"That's why the protocol is important... There might come a time before the virus stops, it's over a hundred thousand Filipinos that are recovered patients so we need to have a protocol for that because of this issue on the remnants of the dead virus," he added.

The DOH previously said healed COVID-19 patients no longer have to undergo repeat tests to be declared as recovered.

"RT-PCR is not a measure of cure kasi nga hindi naman sasabihin ng RT-PCR sa 'yo kung ang isang tao ay nakakapanghawa pa o hindi na. Ang sasabihin lang sa 'yo ng RT-PCR, nade-detect ko pa 'yung virus sa loob ng katawan mo," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said. 

Zubiri tested positive on Monday after he took a swab test as part of the safety protocols for the attendees of the fifth State of the Nation Address.

He said the Lung Center of the Philippines conducted the test using a GeneXpert machine.

"I have nothing against that machine," Zubiri said, stressing that he still believes in the accuracy of its output especially for those who had not contracted the virus before.

"The mistake comes when you're a recovered patient, 'pag natapos ka na sa bout of coronavirus. You're good, already asymptomatic, you're fine you're no longer infectious, that's where the problem comes in," he said.

On Tuesday, the DOH said those who had been in contact with Zubiri no longer have to be under quarantine but as an added layer of protection, they were advised to optionally take another swab test five days after their last contact. —KG, GMA News