The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases has approved a pilot study on the use of rapid antigen tests to screen people traveling across local borders.

In Resolution No. 72, the IATF backed the recommendation of a Department of Health-led technical advisory group to “commence pilot studies on the use of Rapid Antigen Testing (Ag-RDTs) for border screening and serial testing in high-risk to low-risk interzonal travel considering cross-border differences in quarantine status and prevalence level of transmission.”

The initial studies will be conducted in coordination with the Department of Tourism and Department of the Interior and Local Government and with the assistance of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire on Friday said rapid antigen tests cannot be used for asymptomatics or Covid-19 patients exhibiting no symptoms.

She noted that the sensitivity levels of rapid testing kits available in the Philippines were below the 80-percent benchmark set by WHO.

Because of the varying sensitivity levels, tests administered among asymptomatics could yield negative results.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque meanwhile said the use of the tests would be a “game-changer” due to faster results.

Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), considered the gold standard in coronavirus testing and detection, takes days or even weeks to produce results. John Ezekiel J. Hirro