Magalong to LGUs: Tap police for contact-tracing

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 16 2021 07:44 PM

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Video courtesy of PTV 

Contact-tracing czar Benjamin Magalong on Tuesday urged local governments to tap police officers to locate and quarantine people who had interacted with COVID-19 patients. 

For every patient with COVID-19, local governments must find 30 to 37 close contacts in urban areas and 25 to 30 contacts in rural areas, said Magalong, mayor of Baguio. 

"We never reached that," he said in a televised public briefing. 

He attributed this to shortage of contact-tracers, failure to cascade protocols to the municipality level, lack of database, and high number of infections that overwhelms tracers. 

A former police general, Magalong said he has secured police commitment to help in contact-tracing. However, some local governments fail to tap officers, he said. 

"Lagi kong sila sinasabihan na (I always tell them that) if they will, the PNP will add value because many of these people there are investigators and they have this cognitive interviewing skill," said Magalong. 

"Then second is iyong mga analytical tools na ginagamit natin to analyze properly itong big data analytics, kailangan natin iyong mga investigative system na naitayo na ng PNP. All we have to do is instead of crimes or criminal cases, i-convert lang natin into COVID cases," he added. 

(The tools that we use to analyze big data properly, we need the investigative system that the PNP set up for that. All we have to do is instead of crimes or criminal cases, let's convert this to COVID cases.)

However, Magalong acknowledged that authorities need to "build confidence" that the police would not use the database for possible rights abuses. 

"DOH will manage iyong database nito at make sure naman na hindi basta-basta magamit ito to intimidate, to harass and for any other illegitimate use," he said. 

(DOH will manage the database and make sure that it cannot be easily used to intimidate, to harass and for any other illegitimate use.)

"Kailangan bigyan natin talaga ng assurance iyong mga taumbayan, talagang it’s a big challenge sa atin. Pero it’s just a matter of coming up with the right message . . . Again, we have to strictly comply with the Data Privacy Act." 

(We need to give assurance to the public, and it's really a big challenge to us. But it’s just a matter of coming up with the right message.)

The inter-agency task force has ordered the full implementation of the contact-tracing app StaySafe

"It’s not an absolute solution... It’s just a tool, it’s just a mitigation platform to help our contact tracers in undertaking iyong (the) contact-tracing manual system," Magalong said. 

Nearly a year into its COVID-19 lockdown, the Philippines is battling a surge of coronavirus infections. Its tally of new cases breached the 4,000 mark for the fifth straight day on Tuesday.