Magalong seeks digitalization of contact tracing strategy of LGUs

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 30 2020 06:23 PM

Residents selected for testing gather at the Baclaran Elementary School as local authorities enforce a reasonable calibrated lockdown of 10 major streets in Barangay Baclaran, Parañaque City on May 21, 2020, in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Philippines' contact tracing czar for the COVID-19 pandemic said Thursday he sought the help of the Department of Information and Communications Technology for the digitalization of a pillar of the government's response among local government units (LGUs).

Digitalization will help LGUs improve contact tracing given that only less than one percent of some 600 offices in the country, based on a diagnostic questionnaire sent out to 1,900 LGUs, have shown good practice, according to Mayor Benjamin Magalong of Baguio City.

"Ang mga kailangan po nilang pag-aralan (they have to study), iyong cognitive interviewing skills and at the same time the use of the different analytical tools and the use of the other technologies that are available," Magalong said during a Palace press briefing.

"Ngayon po, nakikipag-ugnayan po kami sa DICT para po magamit po natin iyong binabanggit ho natin na digital contact tracing. At kung ito po ay magagamit natin, it will complement po iyong ating ginagamit ngayon na traditional way of conducting our contact tracing," he added.

(We are coordinating with the DICT to use the digital contact tracing to complement the traditional way of conducting contact tracing.)

Contact tracers are the ones who track down close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases, ensuring that suspect cases are isolated and tested. They are expected to do data gathering, interviews, and health assessment of contacts and health education.

The government's pandemic task force had endorsed StaySafe.ph as the official contact tracing app despite supposed deficiencies pointed out by former DICT Undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr.

Magalong, whose city has been hailed for its efficient contact-tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic, said they want to change the current process which focuses only on the conduct of interviews.

He proposed a "contact tracing ecosystem" to include interviewers, analysts, technical support teams, and econders to improve the practice.
 
"Tuloy-tuloy po iyong ating pagpapaigting ng ating contact tracing," he said.

(We are continuously improving our contact tracing.)

Earlier this month, the Department of the Interior and Local Government said the Philippines' contact tracing capacity is at 98.2 percent.

As of July 29, the country of a little over 100 million has recorded 85,486 confirmed COVID-19 cases, surpassing the tally of infections in mainland China where the disease is believed to have first emerged late last year.

Of the cumulative total in the Philippines, 56,528 are active cases.