Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire on Wednesday assured the public about the integrity of the number of Covid-19 cases being reported by the agency.
“Bakit natin ima-manipulate [Why are we going to manipulate the results]? What would be the objective [if the DOH will do the manipulation]? Ang gusto nating ipakita ay ang totoong nangyayari sa ground [What we want to show is the real situation on the ground],” Vergeire clarified.
She stressed that DOH has always been “transparent” and “accurate” in releasing the Covid data.
“The integrity of our data, you can check it. It is being validated everyday,” the DOH official added stressing that all implementing units have access to their data.
“I can assure that no manipulation will happen,” Vergeire vowed.
Considering the aforementioned development, the DOH said that they will also include suspected and probable cases and close contacts with positive rapid antigen tests from areas with declared outbreaks—in this case the NCR Plus area which covers Metro Manila, Cavite, Rizal, Bulacan, and Laguna, as confirmed in the daily case count, as well as in the total case count being reported by the department.
However, reporting of Covid-19 cases shall be disaggregated based on the type of test used.
“Those cases who tested positive but do not fit the case definition of suspect and probable case or close contact under existing DOH issuances shall be retested using RT-PCR for them to be tagged as a confirmed Covid-19 case.”
Pursuant to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases Resolution No. 106-A authorizing the procurement and use of Rapid Antigen Test Kits in accordance with DOH Department Memorandum (D.M.) 2020-0468 which provides technical guidance on the use of antigen tests, the DOH shall allow the use of rapid antigen as diagnostic and confirmatory tests for close contacts, and Covid-19 suspect and probable cases in the NCR Plus area .
The DOH said that the move is to ensure that the appropriate response and control measures may be immediately initiated by local government units (LGUs) to contain further spread of the virus.
“In accordance with existing guidelines, while a positive rapid antigen test result is considered a confirmatory test for Covid-19 suspect and probable cases and close contacts, those with a negative result will be subject to a confirmatory RT-PCR test or a repeat antigen test after 48 hours,” the DOH said in a statement.
The DOH, however, emphasized that RT-PCR testing remains to be the gold standard for confirming the presence of SARS-CoV-2 and that the use of rapid antigen tests as confirmatory tests shall only be allowed until the declaration of outbreak in the NCR Plus area has been lifted.
“Moreover, antigen testing SHALL NOT be used for border control, pre-travel testing, workplace screening, or testing of asymptomatic general contacts.”
Vergeire also said that the public should expect that the number of cases to increase in the coming days with the use of the antigen in testing in the NCR Plus.
“We expect tataas po talaga kasi mas matetest na natin ang mga tao. Mas makikita na natin kung sino ang positibo at negatibo. Isasama natin ito doon sa ating official list of positive cases, [We expect that the cases will increase because more people will be tested. We determine who is negative and who is positive. We will also include it in our official list of positive cases],” Vergeire said.
The DOH also clarified that their existing guidelines vetted by “our pool of experts have always been clear–antigen is not meant for screening or border control.”
The use of these kits, the DOH stressed, must be purposive — “rapid antigen tests must be used only for the diagnosis of suspect and probable cases and close contacts in communities with confirmed outbreaks.”
The antigen is also “not” for screening even in areas with high transmission.
“This is for contact tracing — meaning established exposure to a confirmed/probable case, prioritizing those who show symptoms, those who were exposed to a patient, or close contacts of confirmed cases.
Additionally, only qualified licensed healthcare professionals in local health offices, health facilities, accredited quarantine and isolation facilities, and certified Covid-19 confirmatory laboratory facilities are authorized to administer rapid antigen tests and interpret its results.
“Further, rapid antigen test kits to be administered should be registered with the Food and Drug Administration, and validated by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine or other designated institutions.”