The government will use antigen tests to screen families displaced by typhoons for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), Malacañang said Tuesday.
In a press briefing in Alcala, Cagayan, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the government has anticipated the need to conduct testing in evacuation centers even before the OCTA Research Group suggested testing to ensure Covid-19 is not transmitted among evacuees.
“Bago pa po imungkahi iyan ng OCTA Research Group ay ina-assure ko po kayo na in place na po iyong polisiya ng gobyerno na magbigay po ng Covid testing sa mga evacuation centers at ngayon po ang gagamitin nga po natin para mas marami at mas mabilis ay ang antigen test sa lahat ng ating mga evacuation centers (Even before the OCTA Research Group made the suggestion, I assure you that policies were in place to provide Covid testing in evacuation centers. Now, we are going to use antigen tests in evacuation centers, which is faster and can cover more individuals),” Roque said.
He acknowledged the need to conduct testing to curb the spread of the highly infectious disease, even if physical distancing is already being implemented in evacuation centers
“Minsan po talaga hindi maiwasan dahil halos napakadami po nating mga kababayan na talagang sumilong sa mga evacuation centers. (Sometimes, staying close to each other cannot be avoided due to the large number of evacuees),” Roque said.
He noted that not all evacuees may be able to avail of the free antigen testing as only those who show signs and symptoms would be prioritized.
Roque also assured that evacuees who show signs and symptoms of Covid-19 would immediately be transferred to separate facilities for quarantine.
Antigen tests, which also use swab samples, can reveal or detect if a person is infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
It only takes 15 minutes to 30 minutes to show results, compared to the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test, which takes days.
The World Health Organization has recommended the use of antigen tests in case of the unavailability of RT-PCR tests, congregate settings or outbreaks.
Earlier, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the transmission of Covid-19 in evacuation centers was a “very strong possibility.”
Duque advised local government units to observe minimum health standards to avoid the spread of the virus among the evacuees.
On Tuesday, health authorities logged 1,148 new confirmed cases, increasing the country’s tally to 410,718 since March.
Of the figure, 374,543 have recovered, while 7,862 have died. (PNA)