PH Red Cross to start saliva testing for COVID-19 on Jan. 25

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(CNN Philippines, January 24) — After securing the green light from the government, the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) will begin conducting saliva testing for COVID-19 on Monday, January 25.

PRC biomolecular laboratories chief Paulyn Ubial told CNN Philippines Newsroom Weekend the organization can start accommodating individuals who want to be tested for the virus using their saliva.

For its initial rollout, the PRC has designated its Logistics and Multi-Purpose Center in Mandaluyong and its laboratory in Port Area in Manila as saliva testing facilities.

Ubial said the booking for the saliva testing as well as the payment would be done online.

While the cost for a saliva test is ₱2,000, PRC Chairman and Senator Richard Gordon said the price may decrease if more people would avail the test.

"We can lower the cost in the future," he said in a statement on Sunday.

The PRC said it already received the letter from Secretary of Health Francisco T. Duque III regarding the Department of Health's approval of saliva testing for COVID-19.

The approval came after the PRC completed the pilot study, involving 1,000 samples for a full review, where 17 positive cases were detected while nine were detected through the swab tests, Gordon said.

"While waiting for the vaccine, the saliva test could pave the way to test more students, healthcare workers, factory workers, company employees, and other essential workers to help stop the spread of the virus," he added.

According to the PRC, the saliva RT-PCR test is a "non-invasive and less stringent" alternative to the swab test.

It said a saliva test does not require for a specimen collector to wear full personal protective equipment, adding that it is cheaper as it uses less equipment and reagents.

Processing time will only take three to four hours, the PRC said.

Vergeire said the laboratory experts panel said that conducting of saliva test should solely be done by PRC laboratories for now.

Before they would allow other laboratories across the country to use saliva tests, Vergeire said they need to see first the results of validation tests of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.