MANILA - The Department of Health said Wednesday it would adopt the strategies of Baguio City and Mumbai, India in their house-to-house search in villages for people with symptoms of COVID-19 and their close contacts.
In Mumbai, home to India's largest slum area, authorities "did house-to-house and they were able to identify all symptomatic [patients], they were able to test them and even their contacts, and somehow they were able to contain the transmission," said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.
The DOH, local officials and civil society groups will replicate the Mumbai strategy in “priority barangays” in Metro Manila and Calabarzon, where COVID-19 cases recently surged, said Vergeire.
The health agency will also use the strategy of Baguio City where authorities find at least 37 people who had close contact with every person who has symptoms of COVID-19 or has tested positive for the virus, she said.
"These types of strategies will be employed so that we will be able to identify all those who are supposed to be isolated," Vergeire told ANC.
"This was one of the objectives that we are trying to do in the early [days] or the outset of the response. But unfortunately, of course, the local governments got overwhelmed with all the tasks that have to be done," she added.
CONTACT TRACING CHALLENGES
Public distrust poses a "real challenge" in contact-tracing, said Vergeire.
"People have to trust the person who is getting their personal information. People right now are so scared, they are so worried and aside from that, there are a lot of misinformation," said the undersecretary.
"People are really scared because of discrimination or stigma and fear of getting into quarantine facilities," she went on.
Manpower shortage also hampers efforts to find patients and their close contacts, she said.
Ideally, there should be one contact tracer for every 800 residents. The Philippines should have about 130,000 contact tracers and currently has around 77,000, said Vergeire.
It will take 2 or 3 weeks to hire and train a contact tracer, she said.
During the 2-week return of Metro Manila and 4 surrounding provinces to the second strictest lockdown, "we won’t be able to hire immediately all of these needed personnel" to find COVID-19 patients, Vergeire said.
The DOH is instead "engaging all of the stakeholders on the ground" to help with contact-tracing, she said.