Contact tracing czar admits 'deteriorating' COVID-19 contact tracing nationwide


Posted at Mar 30 2021 08:29 PM

MANILA - Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, the Philippines' COVID-19 contact-tracing czar, admitted Tuesday before lawmakers a “gradual decrease” in the past weeks in locating contacts of people who tested positive for the coronavirus.

“For the past 4 weeks, nakita niyo na talagang nag-deteriorate nang malaki. And look at the average, from 1:7, the national average, it went down to 1:3. Ibig sabihin… sa contact tracing efficiency ratio of 1:3 to 1:5, ang nako-cocontact trace lang ho d'yan are members of the household,” Magalong said.

(For the past 4 weeks, you can see that there was a significant deterioration... A contact tracing efficiency ratio of 1:3 to 1:5 means only household members are contact-traced.)

Magalong issued the statement before the House Committee on Health as the country saw a continuing surge in COVID-19 cases.

“Technically, wala pong contact tracing d'yan because ang gagawin lang po ng isang contact tracer, ia-announce lang yung positive patient - hanapin niyo yung members ng household and have them quarantine. Ganun na lang po. It doesn't go beyond the F1. Ang F1 po yung household contact o close associate niya sa work,” he added.

(Technically, there is no contact tracing there because a contact tracer will only announce that there is a positive patient, so they just need to look for the household members and have them go on quarantine. That's about it... The F1 is the household contact or close work associate.)

Magalong blamed the bureaucracy in local government units, saying they are not using their data collection tools despite these being uploaded to and encoded in their computers.

Despite attending a series of trainings, some officials supposedly failed to cascade what they learned to their colleagues.

“Probably, because of encoding issues, what do you mean like these? Meron po kasi tayong ibang mga systems na kailangan i-encode natin… Nagkakaroon po ng double and triple encoding. And this is a nightmare for our contact tracer. And until now, this has not been resolved,” he said.

(We have some systems that we need to encode... Double and triple encoding happen.)

Because of this, Magalong said they will “recapacitate and mentor again all other LGUs that are in need of help in contact tracing like NCR.”

“Bukas po, umpisa na yung training ng ating mga uniformed personnel. Around 258, then another 600, will be trained anytime this week. We're closely working with MMDA. Hinihintay na lang po nila ma-consolidate ng LGU yung mga bagong contact tracer.”

(Tomorrow, the training of our uniformed personnel will start... They are just waiting for the LGU to consolidate all the new contact tracers.)

During the House briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said such factors as transmission rate, contact rate and duration of infectiousness are key in the surge in COVID-19 cases.

Reduced surveillance, contact tracing and delayed testing contributed to the duration of infectiousness of the coronavirus in the country, she said.


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