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Industry leaders call for mass testing via rapid antigen test as key to PH re-opening strategy

Local social enterprise teams up with global players to bring innovative healthcare solutions to the country

  • Targeted mass testing is used in countries that successfully managed to control the spread of COVID-19 while re-opening their economies, but this has been missing in the Philippines thus far
  • A viable solution for mass testing requires high-quality (WHO approved) rapid antigen test kits that are paired with digital monitoring
  • Local enterprise Biologic Life Sciences teamed up with global players to bring best practices to the country (including competitively-priced/high-quality rapid antigen test kits paired with BLS’s proprietary BEACON Health Pass app)

Daily COVID-19 infections in the Philippines continue to soar due to the Delta variant, and the economic cost continues to cripple industries and individuals. The public is clamoring for new, longer-term strategies and actionable solutions, and all eyes are now on mass testing to drive the reopening and recovery of the economy.

“Studies supporting mass testing as a sound strategy for reopening communities and businesses are wide and deep, but the challenge in the Philippines is access and capacity. The missing pillar in the country’s COVID-19 strategy is the supply of reliable, rapid, and affordable diagnostic testing,” said Dr. Werner Liepach, former Director General for Central and West Asia, of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) who has called the Philippines home for over 29 years.

The urgency to take action towards reopening the economy has never been more critical as more organizations around the country suffer from prolonged lockdowns and restrictions. Bloomberg also released its latest COVID Resilience Ranking where the Philippines fell to last place out of 53 countries, rated according to the country’s ability or inability to handle the pandemic effectively with minimal social and economic upheaval.

Bloomberg also cited the Philippines’ issues around testing, stating, “The Philippines faces a perfect storm in that it’s grappling with the more ferocious Delta variant at the same time as it works with an inadequate testing regime and sees disruptions to its economy and people’s livelihoods as the pandemic continues to rage.”

The world’s best solutions brought into the country

Dr. Liepach recognized that there has been a flood of low-quality testing kits imported into the country over the past two years, many of which were often haphazardly utilized resulting in concerns regarding the efficacy of antigen tests as an effective tool in managing the Covid-19 pandemic.

“My work has always been focused on poverty reduction and building an inclusive economy, and the pandemic made that mission all the more critical. We scoured the world for solutions that have already been proven effective. Based on our research, what countries such as the Philippines need is mass access to testing. We liaised with the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change to develop a viable program for our country. Under such a program, a reliable antigen test kit, administered regularly and frequently, is paired with a platform to analyze data in real time – all three need to be present for a mass testing strategy to work in the Philippines,” Dr. Liepach explained.

Makati City Pabakuna

This led to the formation of Biologic Life Sciences (BLS), a local social enterprise that aims to expedite the economy’s reopening through the programmatic testing of business, schools and communities.

Spearheaded by Dr. Liepach and other industry leaders, BLS has earned the exclusive distributorship for high-quality and competitively-priced rapid antigen diagnostic test kits from Global Access Diagnostics (GAD), a social enterprise recently acquired by the Global Access Health (GAH) initiative backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and several philanthropic investors. This global initiative was launched to provide access to affordable medical technology in developing countries.

“We’ve already seen the success of these antigen test kits in mass testing all around Europe, increasingly in the US, and we’re hoping to replicate the same success here in the Philippines,” said Dr. Liepach.

BLS will also be offering its institutional clients the BEACON Health System — the country’s first antigen testing-as-a-service solution. BLS has developed its proprietary BEACON Health Pass app, an end-to-end cloud based system designed to capture the results of antigen test kits on users’ smartphones while providing real-time data and analytics to businesses and community leaders. Armed with timely and accurate data, institutions and business leaders will be able to proactively manage their re-opening strategies.

“With the combined usability of the antigen test kits and the data analysis of the BEACON Health App, decision-makers will be equipped with the right information they require in order to gradually and safely bring their constituents and members back to face to face interactions,” said Dr. Liepach. “In the long run, this strategy can potentially ensure more freedom of movement for Filipinos without unnecessary exposure to risks.”