PNA file photo

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is pushing for the availability of COVID-19 self-test kits in drugstores to provide an additional layer of protection in the wake of the recent surge cases.

DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez told reporters in a text message on Tuesday that it’s time to change the protocol and encourage the use of COVID-19 self-test kits to prevent transmission.

“Because if one is not feeling anything, or asymptomatic, one would not have done anyway an RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) for that day. But an antigen test can detect if one is infectious or not for that day, and (that) can be preventive. This should be part of a new normal protocol,” he said.

He added that this recommendation has been submitted to the Technical Working Group of Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases last December 31.

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DTI has been pushing for this recommendation since October last year.

“This is better than no test at all for asymptomatic. (It is) another layer of protection,” Lopez said.

The trade chief said that Food and Drug Administration-approved antigen self-test kits should be made available in drugstores so that people can voluntarily screen themselves for COVID-19 at the comfort of their homes.

Lopez added that the RT-PCR test should still be done for symptomatic individuals.

“In these increasing cases, presumably of Omicron, it is important to have another layer of protection,” Lopez said. “Again, this is on top of the required vaccination, and RT-PCR (is) still needed for asymptomatic.”

The city government of Baguio earlier said it will pilot the at-home COVID-19 test kits in the country to speed up the detection and management of cases in the city.

At-home rapid test kits for COVID-19 screening are widely used in the United States, Canada, Europe, Singapore, and Hong Kong to prevent transmission.

Following the gatherings during Christmas and New Year holidays, the number of COVID-19 cases in the country significantly jumped, making the Philippines again a “high risk” country.

Aside from the holidays, the more transmissible Omicron variant was detected last December 15.

On Tuesday, the Department of Health reported 5,434 new COVID-19 cases. (PNA)

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