New government health protocols will not require businesses to test asymptomatic workers for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

But workers with symptoms will be required to take the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said in a television interview on Friday.

“We’re not encouraging [using the] rapid test. At saka pag asymptomatic (and if they are asymptomatic), not even doing a rapid test nor a PCR test. But for symptomatic already at may disclosure na there is some exposure already, you will be required to have the PCR test,” Mr. Lopez said.

The PCR test checks for the presence of the COVID-19 virus in individuals, while the rapid tests check for the presence of antibodies against the virus.

A study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal found that asymptomatic and symptomatic COVID-19 patients carry similar levels of the virus in their nose, throat, and lungs.

An employers group last month rejected the Health department’s proposal for business owners to conduct random rapid COVID-19 testing on workers every two weeks.

The Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) called on the government to cover the cost of maintaining public health, and called rapid tests a “waste of time, resources, and workforce” due to the inaccuracy of results.

The Health department has since clarified that the random rapid testing is optional and not a government directive as employees return to work. — Jenina P. Ibañez