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    All you need to know about the COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Tests: Interview with Dr Batoul Al-Alawi

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    The Ministry of Health (MOH) has launched the COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Tests on a trial basis in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Primary Healthcare Labs Chief Dr. Batoul Al-Alawi details the process of the COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Tests.

    Dr Batoul Al-Alawi
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    Can you detail the recent launch of the COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Tests by the Ministry of Health?

    In line with the directives issued by His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister, to scale-up COVID-19 testing before the start of the academic year, and part of the efforts made by the National Medical Taskforce to Combat the Coronavirus (COVID-19), to introduce new assessment techniques to enhance accessibility and assisting, the Ministry of Health has launched a COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test, which allows for results to be obtained in just 15 minutes,and has been approved by the Kingdom’s National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA).  

    The MOH is still in the piloting phase and is currently conducting a large number of trials of around 20,000 tests, across selective private and government schools, for frontline healthcare workers, and for symptomatic patients. To date, the MOH has tested more than 4,000 symptomatic patients and the results have been very promising.  

    The COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test is not a replacement for the conventional PCR test. The purpose of this method is to improve the accessibility and to ensure life goes back to normal for all in a safe way. Nevertheless, the PCR test remains the gold standard, but the Rapid Antigen Test will allow for mass screening for large populations. 

    Following the successful trial, the COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test will be available across pharmacies in the Kingdom, to be accessible to the public. 

    What is the procedure of the COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test?

    The procedure is very simple and easy to be used with minimal invasive samples. An individual can conduct the test by themselves by self-administering a nasal swab. The swab is then mixed with a buffer solution in a tube, to reveal the test results in 15 minutes. This test is very practical and simple. 

    How is the COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test different from the normal COVID-19 PCR test?

    The main distinct difference is the sampling techniques. The nasopharyngeal swab (PCR test) will require a deep insertion of the swab into the sinuses, and the rapid nasal swab is almost pain-free. 

    We’ve already tested 800 frontline healthcare workers across various isolation centers, and they were happy with the COVID-19 rapid screening test procedures. 

    Furthermore, the procedure is relatively inexpensive and does not require sophisticated PCR technology. As I said earlier, it is not a replacement for the PCR test, but this is for mass screenings and improved accessibility.

    Does the COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test substitute PCR examination if the result is positive?

    No, we are still following the national protocol. If the result is positive, it has to be confirmed by the conventional PCR method, which provides a more accurate result.

    Do you have any message for our readers?

    Yes, please wear your masks, adhere to social distancing guidelines, wash your hands regularly with soap and use an alcohol-based sanitizer when necessary. These basic tips are vital to keeping COVID-19 at bay, and your vigilance will help support national efforts to ensure the eradication of the virus.

    The success of the Kingdom’s eradication efforts is based on the responsibility and vigilance of the public in following all the health and social distancing guidelines at all times. 

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