Contact tracing still valued, but less effective in high-transmission areas - DOH

Wena Cos, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 14 2022 09:07 PM

Health workers assist a patient being admitted at the Manila COVID-19 Field Hospital located at the Quirino Grand Stand on January 12, 2022. Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso ordered the Manila Health Department (MHD) and the Manila Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) to only admit severe cases to keep hospitals open for other non-COVID-19 patients needing medical help. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
Health workers assist a patient being admitted at the Manila COVID-19 Field Hospital located at the Quirino Grand Stand on January 12, 2022. Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso ordered the Manila Health Department (MHD) and the Manila Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) to only admit severe cases to keep hospitals open for other non-COVID-19 patients needing medical help. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - While COVID cases continue to soar in Metro Manila and other provinces, contact-tracing would be not be as "efficient," the health department said Friday, as it decided to deprioritize the task in high-transmission areas. 

"May value pa ho ang contact tracing. Lagi nating tatandaan na it's part of our package. 'Yun nga lang hindi sya nagiging efficient sa ngayon pag ganito kabilis ang transmission. Pero sa ibang areas, sa ibang regions ng country natin kung saan mababa pa ho ang transmission, at infection rate, contact tracing is still very valuable," said Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire on an interview with TeleRadyo. 

(There is still value in contact tracing. That's why it is part of our package. But it becomes less efficient in areas with high transmission. But in areas and regions with lower transmission rates, contact tracing is still very valuable.)

Contact tracing will still be done, especially in regions with lower transmission and infection rates, she said. 

The DOH earlier announced that contact tracing will 'take a backseat' in the National Capital Region where COVID-19 cases have sky-rocketed over the past week. 

"It is still very important for us to be able to determine the linkage of these cases, mahanap kung sino ang exposed, ma-isolate, ma-quarantine agad lahat ng nakasalumuha ng tao na nag-COVID-19 positive," she added.

Netizens slammed the earlier announcement, with some saying it is a regressive approach to the pandemic.

The health department also shortened isolation and quarantine periods, from 10 days to 7 days for fully-vaccinated patients who had mild COVID symptoms. 

The new policy puts a priority on isolation for the general public, while testing is given priority to healthcare workers, seniors, and the immunocompromised.

Under the new policy, the DOH emphasized that as soon as an individual develops any symptom related to COVID-19, they must immediately isolate following the minimum number of isolation days specified in the guidelines. 

Dr. Anna Ong-Lim explained how isolation is integral to control the transmission of possible COVID-19 virus. 

"When you start showing your symptoms, the virus has had a head start of 2 days already going around your household and workplace, so you don't have time to second guess whether what your feeling is COVID or not, that's why we keep talking about isolate immediately as your first step, at least you are decreasing your chances of spreading it," Ong-Lim said. 

Fully vaccinated individuals with mild symptoms must isolate for 7 days, while partially inoculated or unvaccinated persons must isolate for 10 days from the onset of symptoms.

Asymptomatic close contacts who are fully vaccinated must quarantine for 5 days; those not vaccinated must do so for 14 days.

The new guidelines on isolation and quarantine was adopted by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Thursday, and will take effect once the DOH issues the policy.