Philippines should have law on digital contact tracing: health workers

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 13 2021 10:44 AM

Passengers try the newest contact tracing app launched by MRT-3 at the North Avenue Station in Quezon City on January 18, 2021. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - A group of health workers on Tuesday called for "unity of command" in Metro Manila and a law on digital contact tracing as the country's COVID-19 cases continued to rise.

The Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 earlier called for "long-term" solutions as government placed Metro Manila and nearby provinces under strict lockdown to curb virus spread.

The group said government and Congress must draft a law that would indicate which data should be recorded for how long and who should secure it.

"We were pushing for digital contact tracing because we feel this is the Achilles heel. We cannot continue on insisting we can do manual contact tracing. The virus is moving so fast. Ang joke nga namin nagviral na ang virus, tayo manual pa rin," Dr. Aileen Espina told ANC.

(We were joking that the virus has gone viral but our contact tracing was still manual.)

"We now have StaySafe. We also have QR codes in different LGUs (local government units), we have business establishments...They’re not sharing this data so nobody really gets a visual."

Malacañang on Sunday said the Inter-Agence Task Force has approved the proposal to use text messages for automatic contact tracing through its app StaySafe.PH

The COVID-19 Document Repository System would be transferred to the health department, while the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) would lead the implementation, said Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.

The "conductor" for the capital region's virus response cannot be the Inter-Agency Task Force Against COVID-19 as it oversees the country's response nationwide, according to Espina.

The ONE Hospital Command, meantime, focuses on hospital transfers" and must be expanded to be a referral network beginning from community level, she said.

"Dapat may plano kung ano ang gusto nating gawin within that short period of time because it was meant to buy time. We would like to see a unity of command in the NCR (National Capital Region)," she told ANC's Headstart.

(There should be a plan on what we want to do within that short period of time because it was meant to buy time.)

The Philippines on Monday reported 11,378 more COVID-19 cases, bringing its total to 876,225. Of this figure, 157,451 or 18 percent are active infections.

It is forecast to reach 1 million virus cases by the end of the month, OCTA Research earlier said.

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