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Experts Say 2022 Should Be About COVID Self-Test Kits

Experts Say 2022 Should Be About COVID Self-Test Kits

In 2020, the world struggled with COVID-19. The year resulted in travel restrictions, lockdowns, work-from-home schemes, and distance learning. Even with physical distancing and masking protocols, the pandemic still led to job loss, sickness, and deaths. In 2021, the vaccines provided us with some kind of respite. However, the pandemic is still here, with new variants — like Delta and Omicron — appearing unpredictably. This got some people asking: What more can we do in 2022? Experts say it’s time to focus on having COVID test results right when you need them.

Why 2022 Should Be About Testing

You may be wondering why 2022 should be about having immediate COVID test results when we already have vaccines and some antivirals against SARS-CoV-2.

To put it simply, having immediate COVID test results allows a person to take action right away.

After finding out that they are COVID-positive, they can isolate immediately, reducing the risk of infection. If tests are already approved and available, then patients can immediately go to the doctor and receive medicines, like Paxlovid and Molnupiravir. Studies show that these drugs reduce the possibility of a severe infection.

Depending on the future protocols, having immediate COVID test rests might even lead to some kind of normalcy. Case in point: If you develop symptoms and receive negative results right away, then perhaps you don’t have to skip classes or work. Access to test kits might also help ease travel restrictions.

Available COVID Tests in the Philippines

Two years after the start of the pandemic, people still have problems with testing. If you want to know if you’re COVID-19 positive, then your choices are limited to the following:

RT-PCR Tests

The gold standard in COVID-19 testing. This test, which stands for Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction, detects the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 at the time of testing.

You may receive your RT-PCR COVID test results within 24 hours, but it might also take days.

As of now, this test is only available in hospitals, laboratory clinics, or drive-thru stations. The local government unit provides free RT-PCR testing, but if you get it from private centers, it might cost you a few thousand pesos.

Rapid Antigen Test

Commonly called the rapid test, it detects an antigen, a type of protein attached to the SARS-CoV-2.

In most cases, you may receive your rapid antigen COVID test results within minutes (as fast as 15 minutes).

However, despite the fast turnaround of results, there is still no available antigen test kit that you can perform on your own. As of this writing, only a healthcare worker can administer the rapid antigen test.

Antigen tests are less expensive than RT-PCR tests, but they might still cost up to PHP1,500.

Saliva Test

Finally, we have painless saliva testing. This one detects the viral load in the patient’s saliva and also looks for the genetic material of the virus. Reports say it’s at least 98% accurate.

There are available at-home saliva collection kits in other countries, but you still need to send the sample to laboratories. The Philippine Red Cross has available saliva testing centers across the country.

Saliva tests are about as expensive as the rapid antigen test, but COVID test results may arrive after a day or two.

The Philippines Is Now Looking into Using Antigen Self-Test Kits

To date, we still don’t have a self-test kit — the kind you can buy over-the-counter and use at home.

There are several reasons why self-test kits are not yet available:

  • The possibility of incorrect usage (wrong timing, improper handling, etc.). Incorrectly performing the test may result in wastage; the wrong collection may also cause pain (in cases of rapid antigen swab test). Most importantly, results have to be accurate.
  • Costs. The self-test kits available are still quite expensive.
  • Improper disposal. Samples are considered as hazardous waste.

As of this writing, the Department of Health said they are studying the use of antigen self-test kits. They are just working around the challenges mentioned above, particularly proper handling and accuracy.

Key Takeaways

Experts say 2022 should be about more accessible COVID test results. Instead of going to clinics and laboratories for testing, it will be ideal to have accurate, inexpensive self-test kits that people can use at home. That way, they can act immediately to reduce the spread of infection and disease severity.

Learn more about Coronavirus here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

1 In 2022, We Need to Shift Our COVID-19 Focus to Testing, https://time.com/6132183/2022-covid-19-testing-plan/, Accessed January 6, 2021

2 COVID-19 and PCR Testing, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/21462-covid-19-and-pcr-testing, Accessed January 6, 2021

3 Saliva RT-PCR Test, https://redcross.org.ph/covid19/saliva-test/, Accessed January 6, 2021

4 DOH studying use of antigen self-test kits: spox, https://news.abs-cbn.com/video/news/01/05/22/doh-says-studying-use-of-antigen-self-test-kits, Accessed January 6, 2021

5 FDA Memorandum No. 2021-009 || Minimum Performance Requirements for COVID-19 Test Kits Used for SARS-CoV-2 Infection, https://www.fda.gov.ph/fda-memorandum-no-2021-009-minimum-performance-requirements-for-covid-19-test-kits-used-for-sars-cov-2-infection/, Accessed January 6, 2021

6 Information for patients on the SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Self Test Nasal, https://diagnostics.roche.com/au/en_gb/c/covidqr-patients.html, Accessed January 6, 2021

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated 3 weeks ago
Fact Checked by Vincent Sales