Duque: StaySafe app has ‘almost no impact’ on contact-tracing efforts

Duque: StaySafe app has �almost no impact� on contact-tracing efforts
Photo illustration shows a screenshot of the StaySafe.ph app.
Photo illustration by Philstar.com / Rico Alonzo

MANILA, Philippines — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Wednesday admitted that the government's contact tracing app StaySafe has had "almost no impact" since it was rolled out last year. 

The admission comes months after the official in charge of overseeing contact tracing in the Philippines, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, said that that contact tracing remains the “weakest link” in the government’s response against COVID-19. 

"I think [Stay Safe is] very limited, [with] almost no impact and I think the [Department of Information and Communications Technology] should make the effort to explain," Duque said after he was questioned by Sen. Pia Cayetano about the application's effectiveness at a Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the health department's utilization of pandemic funds. 

"In truth and in fact is merely a digital log of what is written on logbooks [in establishments]. That's all it does," Cayetano said. "Its in our imagination that it is interconnected with the national government's tracking system or the local government's tracking system [but] all it is, is a log of who went in and out." 

"Is that the extent of the contact tracing we're relying upon?" she further asked.

"What I know is that when it was adopted by the national government, it was connected to our COVID Kaya, the DOH's data repository system," Duque told senators in Filipino. "Because that's how you will know who tested positive and who was exposed. But the last time we were updated on this was March." 

He added that he would "echo the concerns to the DICT during the next [pandemic task force meeting]."   

App made mandatory in March

The Department of Interior and Local Government in March ordered LGUs to quit their respective contact tracing systems and instead use the StaySafe app, which it said would eventually be the integrated digital platform for pandemic response.

“We will soon fully implement the StaySafe application and we don’t want to complicate the situation any further. It will be easier and more cost-efficient for LGUs to just use StaySafe instead of buying their own,” DILG spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said in a statement then.

“Once we have a unified system, this will be a big boost to our digital contracting tracing efforts which will complement and assist in the work of our 255,000 contact tracers nationwide." — Bella Perez-Rubio with a report from The STAR 

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