Philippines’ Private Sector Defends Rapid Testing

Project Ark, a private sector-led medical campaign against COVID-19, has expressed their firm support for rapid testing. This is after the our country’s medical community released a statement pointing towards company-based rapid testing as partly responsible for the recent surge of infections.

“The tests are an added weapon to identify those who may be infected even if asymptomatic, so that they might be isolated,” Dr. Minguita Padilla, head of the medical team of Project Ark, said in a statement. “Given the scarcity of RT-PCR capability, we in Project Ark tried to do that using the only thing available then for asymptomatic . And , used properly, helped identify infections in the community prior to the planned gradual opening of the economy.”

Never Meant to be a Stand-alone Test

Padilla emphasized that rapid antibody test was never mean to be used on its own and were only supplementary to our country’s limited PCR testing capabilities. It also abides to all the safety measures recommended by both DOLE and the DOH.

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Padilla also responded to the main criticism for rapid antibody testing: the false positives. She cited studies that finds that even for RT-PCR testing, infections are only detected around 80 percent of the time, usually in the third day of symptoms, or the eighth day of exposure. She explains that “its sensitivity goes down continuously after this. But if one combines the PCR with other tests, such as antibody tests, then the chances of finding the infection increases because you would be able to find it in earlier stages through the PCR and also in the second week onward when the virus might not be found anymore but the antibodies are highest.”

Unfounded Claims

Dr. Rontgene Solante, an expert in infectious diseases, stated that blaming the private companies’ testing efforts as the reason for the surge is unfounded. One factor that was actually more contributive to the surge is our failure to detect carriers at an early stage before they could infect others. He also conceded that the Project Ark’s protocols were sound and “the business community had to make the decision of the most available and affordable test during that time.”

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For privately organized initiatives such as the Project Ark, the objective remains the same: to strategically and appropriately provide access to available COVID-19 tests. Project Ark has donated antibody test kits for numerous municipalities including Baliuag, Pasay, Taguig, San Juan, and Las Pinas. Padilla explained that the Project ARK also tries to bridge the gap between RT-PCR testing and the Filipino masses by donating RT-PCR laboratory facilities around the country and by spearheading pooled testing among asymptomatics. All these testing programs that the business groups did, and continue to do, are without any use of government funding.”

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