Brazil’s Minister of Health, Marcelo Queiroga, gives a press conference on the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil on March 24, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

BRASILIA — Brazil’s Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga announced on Wednesday the official launch of a testing program to identify positive COVID-19 cases and their contacts, in order to adopt a better quarantine policy and reduce the transmission of the virus.

The announcement came following the third meeting of the national coordination committee to confront the COVID-19 pandemic at the presidential headquarters of Planalto Palace.

According to the minister, the program will use antigen tests, which provide a faster result than the COVID-19 RT-PCR tests, to detect the virus.

The antigen test is a rapid immunological test that evaluates SARS-CoV-2 viral protein in the organism, and can diagnose the current viral infection, although it doesn’t detect acquired antibodies.

With results that take 30 minutes, the test is indicated for the first seven days after symptoms develop, with greater sensitivity from the first to third days, through nostril swab samples.

Queiroga also reported that the National Commission of Ethics in Research approved an investigation into the efficacy of the Covishield vaccine against COVID-19 from Oxford/AstraZeneca produced in Brazil by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation.

As of Tuesday, Brazil had accumulated 14.44 million COVID-19 cases and 395,022 deaths from the disease, according to the health ministry.