Duque: Quezon City must boost COVID-19 contact tracing efforts

Bianca Dava, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 29 2020 03:36 PM

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Saturday Quezon City must ramp up its contact tracing efforts to manage the surge in COVID-19 cases.

As of August 28, Quezon City has recorded over 10,000 COVID-19 cases, 1,822 of which are active. The city has also reported 8,751 recoveries and 416 deaths.

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte attributes the increase to the lack of discipline among residents.

“Kung ang disiplina naman ay nasa ating sarili. Disiplinado tayo, may nararamdaman tayo, self-isolate, mababawasan talaga ang contact tracing natin,” Belmonte told reporters in an ambush interview.

(Discipline is up to us. If we are disciplined, we feel something, we self-isolate, that will lessen the need for contact tracing.)

At present, Quezon City has a 1:5 case to close contact ratio or five close contacts traced for every confirmed case.

Though this is much lower compared to the ideal 1:37 contact tracing rate for urban areas recommended by contact tracing czar Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, Belmonte said it is an improvement from the city’s previous 1:3 case to close contact ratio.

For Duque, however, the city still needs to ramp up its contact tracing efforts and achieve a realistic 1:10 contact tracing rate.

“The 1:37 for urban areas is the ideal recommended by Mayor Magalong. But syempre di basta basta maaabot, so it’s a good start to do 1:10. Tapos palalawigin na lang 'yun,” the health secretary explained.

He went on, “They are progressing. 1:5 na. It used to be 1:3 lang before. That’s quite a progress but we need to continue to ramp it up, pataasin 'yung case to contact ratio.”

To achieve this, Belmonte said they have added 300 new contact tracers from barangays, the police and volunteers to its existing 472 contact tracers.

“Kakasimula pa lang natin mag-ramp up ng contact tracing efforts natin. Napakalaki ng ating lungsod at marami ang nagpo-positive bawat araw... We need manpower and transportation,” she said.

(We just started to ramp up contact tracing efforts. Quezon City is big and many test positive every day. We need manpower and transportation.)

She said while the city aims to reach Magalong's recommended 1:37 ratio, Quezon City may not be compared with Baguio City as the former has many entry points.

"Ang aming goal ngayon is 1:7 or 1:10 pwede na.”

(Our goal now is 1:7 or 1:10, that's good enough.)

Quezon City will also operate its own molecular laboratory starting next week. This will increase the city’s testing capacity.

Belmonte said this would be "very, very helpful" as the slow turnaround time in COVID-19 tests has been a major problem. At times, she said, results take 10 days to be released.

“With our own lab, makakaasa kayo na ang turnaround time ay (you can expect that our turnaround time is) 2-3 days maximum... 1,000 specimens per day,” she added.