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The government is debating a plan to fund antigen self-test kits.

Malacanang said on Wednesday that the national government is presently debating plans to subsidize FDA-approved antigen self-test kits to make testing more accessible and affordable to the general people.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, the acting presidential spokesperson, highlighted the importance of allowing only FDA-approved antigen self-test kits, stating that the government could not risk faulty or fraudulent results.

“We are looking at numerous solutions for us, for the national government, for the LGUs (local government units), and even for private individuals,” Nograles said in a Palace press briefing.

While alternative options to improve the country’s testing strategies are welcome, he added antigen self-test kits must first go through a “rigorous process.”

“It has to go through this rigorous process with health experts, FDA input, the Department of Health’s input, and then obviously the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) will have to make a decision about expanding the options for testing for our population,” he added.

The “gold standard” in detecting the coronavirus disease, according to Nograles, is reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) (Covid-19).

“Remember, we’re constantly looking at the RT-PCR as a gold standard,” he explained.

However, he stated that having more testing alternatives on the market is extremely beneficial.

“We have the gold standard, and there are other testing kits on the market that must get FDA approval and be studied by our health specialists,” he explained.

The FDA requested the DOH’s advice on at-home Covid-19 testing to be utilized in the country in October 2021.

Although no at-home Covid-19 tests have been approved in the Philippines, such tests are presently being utilized in nations such as the United States and Singapore.

The research is still ongoing.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a television interview on Wednesday that the Department of Health is looking into the potential of suggesting the use of antigen self-test kits to detect Covid-19.

She stated that the DOH met with the FDA and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) to discuss the usage of antigen test kits for self-testing.

“Kailangan lang ho nating masiguro na wala tayong misuse of the self-test antigen,” she said, “because alam naman po natin na meron po tayong tinatawag na (We need to ensure there will be no misuse of self-antigen, as we all know, we should have the) right test at the right time and appropriate use.”

She went on to say that experts in the government are looking into how this may be done without producing erroneous results.

According to Vergeire, the FDA requires that self-test antigen kits be registered in the country.

As of Wednesday, the DOH had reported 10,775 new cases of Covid-19, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 2,871,745 people.

Meanwhile, Nograles advised anyone having Covid-19 symptoms to isolate as soon as possible, even before receiving their RT-PCR test findings.

“The greatest thing to do if you’re experiencing symptoms/symptomatic is to isolate right away.” “Let’s assume it’s Covid,” he speculated.

They might also approach their local government units and request telemedicine services, he said.

To mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on the country’s healthcare capacity, Nograles advised LGUs to increase immunization rates.

“We need to increase yung immunization in other places so that if Omicron or whatever variety goes and spreads (in the) regions, we don’t witness an influx of cases in hospitals,” he said.

He warned that as more healthcare professionals become sick, the number of employees who attend to patients with severe Covid-19 infections will drop.

“Ayaw rin po natin na mataas ang hawaan kase ayaw rin po natin ma-overwhelm ang ating (We don’t want an increase in infections because we don’t want to overwhelm our) health-care capacities,” he said.

Intensive care unit (ICU) beds are currently being used at a rate of 35 percent in Metro Manila and 26 percent nationwide.

Isolation beds are being used at 32 percent in Metro Manila and 27 percent overall, while ward beds are being used at 36 percent in Metro Manila and 19 percent nationwide.

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