Photo shows the interior of the Mega Swabbing Center in Philippine Sports Stadium in Sta. Maria Bulacan pictured last May 20, 2020. The mega swabbing booth prioritizes arriving OFWs and later on Northern Part of Luzon.
The STAR/Michael Varcas
WHO sounds alarm over 'slow' contact tracing efforts in the Philippines
(Philstar.com) - May 26, 2020 - 12:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — A representative of the World Health Organization warned the national government that its sluggish contact tracing efforts were hampering the country's progress against the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Speaking at an online forum hosted by the Philippine College of Physicians, Dr. Socorro Escalante, WHO acting representative, said: “I would say we are slow." 

"We need to push harder and we really need to work harder,” she added, urging the government to double down on its efforts with the looming end of modified enhanced community quarantine at the end of May. 

The WHO representative said that contact tracing should begin once a suspect case visits a hospital instead of upon confirmation of lab results. 

“By that time, we have already spread the infection to many people and that’s really very, very late,” said Escalante. 

The Philippine National Police last said it was tasked with heading contact tracing efforts on the LGU level. 

RELATED: No more warning before arrest under 'tighter' ECQ as PNP leads contact tracing

Healthcare group Coalition for People's Right to Health earlier told Philstar.com that this "may reflect the lack of manpower by the DOH to conduct contact tracing and quarantine."

“Delay in contact tracing needs to be addressed because otherwise, we are not going to catch up with the transmission the virus,” Escalante said.

“Bottomline is we have the capacity and the system but we need to make that system function well. A half-functional system is not going to help us beat COVID-19,” she added. 

Despite clear and pronounced lapses in both mass testing and contact tracing, the chief implementer of the government’s response to the pandemic went as far as saying the country was winning its fight against the new pathogen.

Researchers from the University of the Philippines have warned that prematurely re-opening the economy—especially without mass testing, a task the Palace said it would instead leave to the private sector—would lead to as many as 24,000 new COVID-19 cases and 1,700 deaths by June.  

On Monday, the Metro Manila council revealed that all but three of the region's mayors were in favor of graduating the National Capital Region to general community quarantine. 

The Philippines has so far reported 14,319 cases, with 873 deaths as of the health department's latest tally on Monday afternoon. — Franco Luna

NOVEL CORONAVIRUS WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION
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