Contact tracing in Philippines, inadequate from the start, has deteriorated

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
Contact tracing in Philippines, inadequate from the start, has deteriorated
Commuters queue for free bus rides from Philcoa to Cubao in Quezon City on March 30, 2021 due to limited public transportation amid the enhanced community quarantine.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — Contact tracing, a crucial tool to curb the spread of COVID-19, “largely deteriorated” in the past four weeks, with the country only averaging as few as three close contacts being traced for every one patient with the disease, contact tracing czar Benjamin Magalong told a House inquiry on Tuesday.

Data presented by the Baguio City mayor during the hearing showed that the national average number of contacts traced for every patient dropped to 1:3 from March 15 to 29 from 1:7 from February 28 to March 14.

“For the past four weeks, you can see that contact tracing largely deteriorated,” Magalong told lawmakers in Filipino. “Only members of the household are being contact-traced. So, technically, there’s no contact tracing.”

Magalong’s data also showed that contact tracing dropped in 10 regions and was only improved or sustained in six regions.

Caraga was the region that traced the most contacts per patient, but even then, it only traced seven contacts for every patient from March 15 to 29 — far from the target set by the government of tracing 30-37 close contacts of patients in urban areas and 25-30 contacts in rural areas.

Magalong blamed the inefficiency of contact tracing on local governments failing to use the uniform data collection tool and failing to go beyond first generation contacts.

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He also said that many of those who were trained for contact tracing did not relay what they learned to their local governments, while local governments did not use contact tracing analytical tools and did not collaborate with uniformed personnel for contact tracing.

He added that the digital information management systems of the government, COVID Kaya and Tanod COVID, do not support contact tracing and that data of close contacts are not properly encoded.

Moving forward, Magalong said they will try to retrain local governments on contact tracing and support them for the analysis of their COVID-19 cases.

According to the World Health Organization, contact tracing, along with robust testing, isolation and care of cases, is a key strategy for interrupting the transmission of COVID-19.





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