De Lima seeks probe on DOH's COVID-19 contact tracing efforts

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 29 2020 06:59 PM

Health workers conduct rapid testing on local barangay officials in Barangay Addition Hills, Mandaluyong City on May 7, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File Photo

MANILA - Detained Sen. Leila de Lima on Monday filed a resolution to investigate the Department of Health's (DOH) efforts to trace individuals who have been in contact with confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients.

There is a need to "to improve the dismal response of DOH against the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the country," De Lima said in a statement after asking a representative to file Senate Resolution No. 457.

"The problem of contact tracing remains a persistent issue that needs to be addressed as it gravely affects the government's ability to formulate an effective public health response to the pandemic," she said.

The World Health Organization earlier said that tracing and isolating individuals who were in contact with COVID-19 patients are key steps in stemming the spread of the virus causing the disease.

In February 2020, several senators questioned the DOH's slow contact tracing efforts after the Philippines lodged its first COVID-19 case -- a tourist from Wuhan, China, where the highly-contagious virus originated.

A Senate hearing earlier found that weeks after the Chinese tourist tested positive for COVID-19, only 17 percent of people who take the same flights with the patient have been contacted.

Around 4 months after the first COVID-19 patient arrived in the Philippines, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that the DOH plans to spend P11.7 billion to hire 130,000 contact tracers.

Several senators thumbed down the proposal, saying the Health agency can tap local government workers for the job to avoid further depleting the national government's funds.