By NewsDesk  @bactiman63

The Philippines Department of Health (DOH) reported an additional 2,630 new COVID-19 cases Friday, bringing the country total to 299,361.

The Metro Manila area accounted for more than 1,000 of the new cases.

69 new deaths reported today brought the total to 5,196 to date.

According to health officials, the number of COVID-19 deaths has continued to taper off, with the highest number of deaths last recorded on August 6 to 13, based on a four-week moving average.

Today, the DOH reported that Baguio City has been chosen for the pilot use of rapid antigen testing following recommendations to study its diagnostic capacity to screen for COVID-19 cases.

According to Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III, Baguio City is the preferred pilot site because of its model governance in managing the spread and containment of the coronavirus as it leads the way for aggressive and organized contact tracing in the Philippines, while at the same time increasing the operational efficiency of its health management system.

Antigen tests are used to determine current or active infections among patients. They collect and use swab samples to test a person under monitoring for COVID-19 in a process similar to the Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) tests. However, unlike RT-PCR, tests that can take up to three days to process results, said antigen tests have only about 4-6 hours turnaround time for release of results.

Sec. Duque explains the objective of the pilot use: “It will help us assess whether rapid antigen tests can be adopted for official use or not. This pilot use will also determine if these tests are best performed when a person is already in the early stages of infection.” To date, the World Health Organization (WHO) does not recommend rapid antigen as a screening method.


However, the health chief explained that the tests may be used under certain conditions, such as an outbreak or in locations that need testing but do not have access to RT-PCR tests.

Meanwhile, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, also known as the Contact Tracing Czar, expressed his support for the DOH’s implementation of the pilot use on his city and pointed out where the first tests will be conducted. He said, “Antigen testing can be piloted among the asymptomatic close contacts of the confirmed cases in the two barangays, in which the expert groups were amenable.” All data will be given to the DOH and the expert groups to analyze and come up with a conclusion and policy recommendation.

“The people and officialdom of Baguio City are grateful to the Department of Health for having chosen the city to pilot the antigen test. We hope that the results of the pilot test will contribute in enriching the Omnibus guidelines governing the use of the antigen as an alternative COVID detection tool that will speed up efforts to prevent the spread of the virus in our communities,” Mayor Magalong said.

“The city will continue to be open to whatever decision of the health department in further enhancing the prevention, detection, isolation, treatment, and re-integration (PDITR) efforts to combat the spread of the virus in our midst,” he added.

Mayor Magalong also proposed that the test, if proven successful, will also be conducted on tourists who will visit the city once it reopens for business and to leisure travelers, especially from Region 1, on October 1.

Sec. Duque thanked the Mayor for his collaboration and assistance, saying that they were vital in helping the DOH progress in its COVID-19 campaign. “Baguio City and its upcoming reopening have shown us what can be accomplished if the LGU and its people observe and operationalize minimum health protocols. Its management of COVID-19 has made it the most suitable place for pilot use which potentially can help us speed up our accurate screening of positive patients, and thus create an environment to make them and their loved ones safer,” the Health Secretary said.