IATF requires all establishments to adopt Stay Safe contact-tracing app

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 04 2020 09:34 AM | Updated as of Dec 04 2020 10:54 AM

A customer provides contact details for contact tracing before being entertained at a shop selling beauty products in Caloocan City on Aug. 19, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The inter-agency task force leading the country's COVID-19 fight is requiring all establishments to adopt the Stay Safe application and its QR Code, to consolidate data on who interacted with novel coronavirus patients, Malacañang said Friday.

The IATF, which met Thursday, approved the recommendation of the Office of the Cabinet Secretariat to "implement the Safety Seal Certification Program in addition to StaySafe.ph," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

The requirements to secure a Safety Seal "include the adoption of the Stay Safe application and the generation of its QR Code to be displayed in all entrances," he said in a statement.

"All establishments, such as government offices, private companies, hotels and business establishments and public transportation units are thus required to adopt the Safety Seal," he added.

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The Stay Safe app is free for download and does not require mobile prepaid load to function, COVID-19 testing czar Vince Dizon earlier said.

With the app, users can just take a photo of the QR codes in malls, banks, restaurants, trains and buses, instead of manually filling up contact-tracing sheets, he said.

The app will allow users to be easily notified by authorities if a person they had close contact with in these places tests positive for the novel coronavirus, Dizon said.

StaySafe will "build public confidence to use these facilities and help rev up the economy," he told ANC.

The IATF directed the departments of trade, health, labor, local government, tourism, and transportation to issue the necessary joint memorandum circular to detail the Safety Seal requirements, Roque said.

The task force earlier required agencies and local governments to use the Stay Safe digital contact-tracing app.

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The new guidelines came after the country's COVID-19 contact tracing czar Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong agreed with the World Health Organization's recent assessment that the Philippines' contact tracing efforts were "a little weak."

"It is true," Magalong said in a public briefing, noting that about only 7 contacts are identified for every patient with COVID-19.

Ideally, authorities should find about 37 contacts in urban areas and 30 contacts in rural areas, he said.

The lack of a data encoding system is a "major factor" for contact tracing lapses in some local governments, Magalong said.

"Mano-mano pa rin and arbitrary pa rin nila fini-fill out," he said. "Hula-hula na lang, pero 'pag tatanungin mo sa kaniya, ano ba iyong line list contacts ni Magalong, wala silang maipakita... There is no system."

(Filling out contact tracing forms is still manual and arbitrary. It is just a guess. If you ask them who are the line list contacts of Magalong, they can't show anything.)

The Philippines as of Thursday has over 435,000 confirmed coronavirus infections.