Contact tracing woes
Published by the Visayan Daily Star
Editor-in-Chief & President
Bureau Chief, Dumaguete
MAJA P. DELY
|CARLOS ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA
Five months into the pandemic, the Department of the Interior and Local Government seems to have realized that aggressive contact tracing could prove to be a game changer in the country’s efforts in battling the coronavirus disease 2019.
The Interior Secretary recently said the government is ramping up its contact tracing efforts as the number of infections continue to surge. The country currently has 85,000 contact tracers and is looking to hire at least 50,000 more to meet the ratio of one tracer for every 800 people recommended by the World Health Organization.
The WHO recommended that the DILG increase contact tracing initiatives as part of its documentation of the country’s pandemic response.
The DILG has already asked Congress for a P5-billion budget for contact tracing efforts, including recruiting, training and salary.
Contact tracing czar and Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong has recently revealed that out of the nearly 600 local government units that have submitted their diagnostic tests on their contact tracing efforts, less than one percent have been found to have a “relatively good” system. He noted that LGUs were concentrating on the quantity of contact tracers just to comply but most have no system established.
The Department of Health, which has recently come under fire for saying it does not have a contact tracing team, has clarified that it is now the LGUs that are responsible for contact tracing. However, with Magalong’s observation and the DILG’s late realization of the importance of “aggressive” contact tracing, it would seem that there is a lot more work to be done before any effective contact tracing systems can be established in most towns and cities of the country.
Contact tracing has long been established as one of the key weapons against COVID-19. Almost six months into the pandemic, the Philippines is still setting up that defense. How much longer do Filipinos have to wait before an effective response is mounted by their government?*