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COVID-19 testing in the Philippines | May 2022

Here's what you need to know about COVID-19 testing in the Philippines, including what types of COVID-19 tests to choose from, how it works, how much it costs and where you can obtain it.

What types of COVID-19 tests are available for commercial use?

There are 3 main types of tests that you can use to determine the current or past presence of COVID-19 (also known as SARS-CoV-2). These include the following:

1. Reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR test)

Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) is one type of molecular or nucleic acid-based test (PCR test). This is the most accurate way to test for COVID-19 and is usually carried out by specialized laboratories.

  • Good for accurate results

How it works. It detects the presence of SARS-CoV-2 genetic material (RNA) in respiratory samples to determine if COVID-19 is present.
What it tests. It tests for a current COVID-19 infection (usually within 1-2 days).
How samples are collected. Samples are collected through a nose, throat or oral swab.
How long it takes. It usually takes 1-2 days to process the results.

2. Serology-based testing (antibody test)

Antibody tests are tests that identify past not current infection. It looks for antibodies in a sample to determine if a person had a past infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Antibody testing is not recommended for people who already got vaccinated with any brand of COVID-19 vaccine.

  • Good for contract tracing

How it works. SARS-CoV-2 virus is added to a blood sample. A reaction occurs if the blood has COVID-19 fighting agents, which develop 1-2 weeks after infection.
What it tests. It tests for past COVID-19 infection (usually within 3-5 days).
How samples are collected. Blood samples are collected through a syringe.
How long it takes. It usually takes 3-5 days to process the results.

3. Antigen-based testing or rapid antigen test (RAT)

Rapid antigen tests produce quick results when you test for COVID-19 at a doctor’s office, pharmacy or workplace/academic setting.

  • Good for fast results

How it works. Samples are placed in an extraction buffer or reagent and tested for the presence of SARS-CoV-2-specific virus proteins (also called antigens).
What it tests. It tests for a current COVID-19 infection (usually within 15 minutes).
How samples are collected. Samples are collected through a nose, throat or oral swab.
How long it takes. It usually takes 15 minutes to an hour to process the results.

List of FDA-approved PCR based test kits for commercial use

Product nameName and location of manufacturerName of importer/ distributorSpecimenRITM validated result sensitivityRITM validated result specificity
1. SARS-CoV-2 Fluorescent PCR KitMaccura Biotechnology Co Ltd, Chengdu, ChinaAssurance Controls Technologies Co IncOropharyngeal swabs and sputum96.23%100%
2. BioFire Respiratory Panel 2.1 (RP2.1)BioFire Diagnostic LCC, Salt Lake City, Utah, USABiomerieux Philippines CorporationNasopharyngeal swab100%100%
3. i-DENSY Pack Universal Reagent (i-DENSY Pack Universal Sars-cov-2 Detection System)ARKRAY INDUSTRY INC Sto. Tomas, Batangas, PhilippinesARKRAY Industry IncNasopharyngeal swab100%100%
4. SARS-CoV-2 DETECTION PRIMER PROBE SET REAGENT (i-DENSY PACK UNIVERSAL SARS-CoV-2 DETECTION SYSTEM)ARKRAY INDUSTRY INC Sto. Tomas, Batangas, PhilippinesARKRAY Industry IncNasopharyngeal swab100%100%
5. SARS-COV-2 Nucleic Acid Detection Kit (PCR-Fluorescent Probe Method)Zybio Inc Chongqing, ChinaSahar International Trading IncNasal/throat swabs100%100%
6. Xpert Xpress SARS-CoV-2Cepheid AB-Röntgenvägen 5, Solna, SwedenMacare Medicals, IncNasopharyngeal, oropharyngeal, nasal, or mid-turbinate swab or nasal wash/aspirate specimens100%99%

List of FDA-approved antibody rapid test kits for commercial use

Product nameName and location of manufacturerName of importer/ distributorSpecimenRITM validated result sensitivityRITM validated result specificity
1. VivaDiagTM COVID-19 IgM/IgG Rapid TestVivachek Biotech Hangzhou Co Ltd, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, ChinaPhilippine Blue Cross Biotech CorporationWhole blood/serum/plasma and fingertip blood92.00%99%
2. NADAL COVID-19 IgG/IgM TestNal Von Minden GmbH- Carl-Zeiss-Str. 12, 47445 Moers, GermanyDiagnostika Pilipinas, Inc.Human whole blood, serum or plasma93%100%

List of approved antigen test kits for commercial use

Product nameName and address of manufacturerName of importer/ distributorSpecimenRITM validated result sensitivityRITM validated result specificity
1. PanbioTM COVID-19 Ag Rapid Test DeviceAbbot Rapid Diagnostics Jena GmbH Orlaweg Jena, GermanySunfu Solutions IncNasopharyngeal swabCT < 30 (97.83%)100%
2. SOFIA 2 SARS Antigen FIAQuidel Corporation San Diego, California, USALABx CORPNasopharyngeal/nasal swabCT < 30 (92.86%)100%
3. STANDARD™ Q COVID-19 Ag TEST KITSD Biosensor, Inc Gyeonggi-do, KoreaTrulaboratories CorporationNasopharyngeal swabCT<30 93.1%100%
4. NowCheck COVID-19 Antigen TestBioNote Inc-22 Samsung 1-ro-4-gil, Hwaseong-Si, Gyeonggido, KoreaBiologic Life Sciences CorpNasopharyngeal swabCT < 30 (91.4%)97.30%
5. Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Antigen Detection Kit (Colloidal Gold Method) // Wondfo 2019-nCoV Antigen Test (Lateral flow)Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech Co, Guangzhou, ChinaTradematchers IncNasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal swabsCT < 30 (92.2%)100%

Reference: www.fda.gov.ph


Rapid antigen test vs RT-PCR test

RT-PCR test is the gold standard of COVID-19 testing. It gives the most reliable and accurate result but usually takes 1-2 days. While rapid antigen tests are used for those instances where you require fast results and a cheaper cost.


How does a rapid antigen test work?

A rapid antigen test is essentially a screening tool that helps detect traces of COVID-19 in people without any symptoms (asymptomatic) by looking for virus proteins in the body. They are quicker and easier than a standard RT-PCR test but also less effective.

The test involves placing a saliva sample or nasal swab into a chemical solution. It provides results within around 20 minutes.

Another benefit of rapid antigen testing is that the test does not require an intrusive procedure. Unlike a clinic test, you don’t need to shove anything down your throat or up your nose.


Is home testing as effective as going to a clinic?

No. The chief benefit of rapid antigen testing is speed and simplicity. Unlike RT-PCR testing, a rapid antigen test offers a quick turnaround time (15-30 minutes), is scalable and does not need to be administered by a medical professional or sent to a lab.

On the downside, it isn’t as successful at detecting the virus and has a higher potential of providing a “false positive” in individuals with low viral load, making it less accurate compared to RT-PCR testing, which looks for the genetic material (RNA) of the virus.

How to conduct a rapid antigen at-home test: A step-by-step guide

While the test kits are typically similar, their instructions may vary depending on their design and manufacturer. So it’s important to read the instruction sheets provided by the test kits you’re using carefully to avoid getting an inaccurate result.

For this guide, we’ll be using the SD Biosensor Antigen Rapid Test Kit as an example.

What’s in the test kit?

The SD Biosensor Antigen Rapid Test Kit includes the following components:

  • A swab stick
  • A test device
  • A sealed extraction buffer tube
  • A nozzle cap

Swabbing procedure

Here is a simplified version of SD Biosensor Antigen Rapid Test instructions, which is largely similar to the rest of the HSA-approved test kits:

  1. Insert the soft end of the swab about 2cm into the nostrils and rotate gently along the insides of the nasal passage approximately 10 times. Do this for both nostrils.
  2. Insert the swab into the buffer solution tube to mix. Swirl it in the fluid about 10 times while squeezing the end of the buffer tube. When you’re done, pinch the swab tip through the tube walls to remove any remaining fluid and remove the entire stick. Secure the top of the tube tightly with the nozzle cap provided. Gently tap the side of the tube to ensure that the solution is mixed well.
  3. Remove the test device from its protective package. Squeeze 5 drops of liquid from the tube into the round sample well on the test cartridge.
  4. Keep the cartridge on a flat surface and wait 15 minutes before reading the result.

How to read the results on the test cartridge

There are 2 positions on the test cartridge: Control (C) line and the Test (T) line.

Here’s how to read the results on the test cartridge:

  • Positive: COVID-19 is detected if a line appears at BOTH the C and T positions.
  • Negative: COVID-19 is not detected if only a single line appears at the C position.
  • Invalid: If a line appears at only the T position, the test is deemed invalid. Please repeat the process with another test kit.

Video demonstration of how to conduct a rapid antigen at-home test

Are COVID-19 home testing kits available in the Philippines?

As part of the Philippines’ COVID-19 testing efforts, as of January 7, 2022, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now accepting applications for special certifications of COVID-19 home test kits.

According to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, “At present, no antigen test kit that is self-administered has been registered with the Food and Drug Administration yet.” Read more at Inquirer.net.

However, you can purchase a rapid antigen test kit online at Watsons. Please do note that these test kits are required to be administered by a health practitioner via Telemedicine.

Note: Information provided is accurate as of 8 January 2022.


How much do COVID-19 home testing kits cost?

The retail prices typically range from as low as ₱399 per test kit. It will be cheaper per unit if you purchase the tests in boxes of 10 or more.


How do I know if a home testing kit is legitimate?

All COVID-19 testing kits must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in order to be legal for commercial use in the Philippines. To ensure test results are as accurate as possible, make sure you’re buying one of the FDA-approved test kits.

What to do when you have COVID-19

If you were exposed to someone who has COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19. Do the following:

  • Call your health care provider or COVID-19 hotline to find out where and when to get a test.
  • If RT-PCR testing is not available, opt to buy a rapid antigen test online and consult your doctor via telemedicine.
  • Stay home and away from others for 14 days.
  • Cooperate with contact-tracing procedures to stop the spread of the virus.
  • While in quarantine, do not go out unless you need to rush to the hospital.
  • Ask someone to bring you supplies or order online and choose contactless delivery.
  • Keep at least a 1-meter distance from anyone.
  • Stay in a separate room from other family members, and if not possible, always wear a medical mask.
  • Monitor yourself for any symptoms for 14 days.
  • Call your health care provider immediately if you have any of these danger signs: difficulty breathing, loss of speech or mobility, confusion or chest pain.
  • Avoid going to the hospital emergency department unless you’re experiencing serious symptoms.
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