Manila Standard : DOH: Don’t use antigen for COC filing of ’22 bets

20 September 2021

By Willie Casas and Vito Barcelo | Manila Standard

The Department of Health on Monday said it is against requiring antigen tests for individuals who will participate in the filing of their certificates of candidacy for the May 2022 elections.

“We do not recommend the rapid antigen test kits to be used as a screening test for people who will vote or for people who’re going to join events,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

“Antigen tests must be used appropriately so there is no question regarding the results,” she added.

The Commission on Elections earlier said candidates filing their COCs must present a negative COVID-19 test result, taken 24 hours earlier, before entering the Sofitel Tent in Pasay City from October 1 to 8. Antigen tests will be offered on site.

Comelec personnel receiving the COC or certificate of nomination and acceptance (CONA), Comelec security personnel, military and police officials as well as media personnel deployed to cover the filing are also required to present a negative test result.

The Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC), an independent advisory body, recommends rapid antigen tests for these purposes only: targeted screening and diagnosis of suspected and probable COVID-19 cases; testing of patients in the hospital setting where the turnaround time is critical; targeted screening and diagnosis of suspect and probable cases in presumptive outbreaks where the result of the RT-PCR of one suspect has not yet been released and in settings where RT-PCR is not immediately available or when delayed release of result or prolonged turnaround time is expected (i.e., more than 48 hours); local border screening at points of entry for individuals traveling from areas with a high daily positivity rate over a seven-day period; and international border screening at points of entry

The HTAC maintains that the RT-PCR is still the standard diagnostic test for COVID-19.

Vergeire said DOH would discuss with Comelec the appropriate testing protocols that should be implemented during the COC filing.

Meanwhile, the poll body reiterated its call to some six million deactivated voters to renew their registration before the Sept. 30 deadline.

The Comelec said that at present, there are more than 61 million Filipinos eligible to cast their ballots for the 2022 national and local elections, but it expects the number to increase in the last 10 remaining registration days.

The poll body has already registered 4.3 million first-time voters, past its target of 4 million.