Feeling sick? Here are reminders from a health expert about COVID-19 tests, isolation, quarantine

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 7) — When should you take a COVID-19 test? When should you start or end your quarantine? CNN Philippines speaks to a health expert to give a recap of the proper health protocols for those feeling symptoms of the coronavirus.

Infectious diseases expert Dr. Anna Ong Lim told CNN Philippines' The Source on Friday that during the onset of symptoms or after an exposure to someone with symptoms, one must immediately act as if he or she has already contracted the virus to protect the people in the workplace and household.

"Assume (that it is) COVID-19. The first thing to do is isolate then find a way to get tested," Lim said.

She added that after an exposure, one can already be deemed infectious even two days prior to the onset of any symptoms.

"Kaya dapat yung interactions mo masked. Ang kailangan mo na lang problemahin is 'yung mga kasama mo sa bahay kasi hindi ka nagmamask sa bahay (This is why your interactions should always be masked. You just have to look after the people you are with at home because you don't wear masks at home)," she said.

What is the difference between quarantine and isolation?

Lim explained that those who are infected with COVID-19 are the ones who must undergo a ten-day isolation to reduce risk of transmission.

That person should already be totally well on the 11th day to get out of isolation. If not, he or she would have to extend at least three more days in isolation until symptoms are gone.

Under the Health department's January 6 circular on quarantine and isolation protocols, a severe or critical case may take up to 21 days of isolation regardless of vaccination status.

Meanwhile, the close contacts of the sick person must undergo quarantine to observe the onset of symptoms. The quarantine period for fully vaccinated people is seven days, while those who are unvaccinated must be quarantined for 14 days, she added.

"Whether or not you do an RT-PCR or an antigen test does not make a difference, whether or not you're positive does not make a difference, you continue the period that has been assigned," she added.

What are the requirements for home isolation?

Under the Health department's Circular No. 2022-0002, requirements for home isolation include a well-ventilated room, a line of communication with family and health workers, utilities such as electricity, potable water, cooking source, and sewage disposal.

Each household is also encouraged to have a vital signs recording mechanism, thermometer, pulse oximeter, blood pressure apparatus, and medicines to manage the COVID-19 symptoms of the patient.

When should you take an antigen or RT-PCR test?

Lim said that during the onset of symptoms, one can still take an antigen test, and a positive result must be taken as it is.

"The point to make is, an antigen test positive result is highly reliable. Paniwalaan natin kung positive siya. Kung negative, kailangan i-confirm (Let's believe it if the result is positive. If negative, we can make a confirmatory test)," she said.

This means a positive antigen test would not require an RT-PCR confirmatory test anymore "for practical purposes", but she noted that the RT-PCR tests are still being done for PhilHealth reimbursements, or for proper documentation including severe cases that need to be included in genome sequencing.

Health Usec. Rosario Vergeire earlier said those who yield a positive COVID-19 test result must immediately inform their local government so they can be properly assisted.

RELATED: Getting tested amid the post-holiday surge? Omicron symptoms may be seen earlier than usual, says DOH

New COVID-19 cases quickly rose to over 17,000 on Thursday, nearly a 60% increase from Wednesday's count of 10,775.

Just eight days earlier, the country recorded a daily tally of only 889 cases. On Friday, the daily count breached 20,000 for the first time since Sept. 26, 2021.

The Health department said it already assumes a community transmission brought by the Omicron variant due to the exponential increase in cases nationwide. Peak infections are seen to surpass last year's Delta surge by the end of the month.