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Contact tracing chaos

The Philippines is able to identify only about seven contacts per infected person, or a ratio of 1:7. This is a far cry from the ideal contact tracing ration of 1:37 for urban areas and 1:30 for rural communities.

In response to this travesty whilst the country continues to deal poorly with the Covid-19 pandemic, House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has filed a resolution seeking the creation of a unified contact tracing protocol, almost a full year after the pandemic gripped the globe.

Velasco urged the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to improve the country’s ratio of contact tracers to close contacts of Covid-19 patients. In filing House Resolution 1536, Velasco underscored the need to strengthen the government’s contact tracing efforts using the most effective and safest system.

“Contact tracing is a public health strategy to dramatically decrease the impact of the pandemic. It has been used for years to combat communicable diseases such as the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and SARS in 2003,” Velasco said.

The proposed unified national contact tracing protocol should include the designation of a government agency as the centralized repository of information to facilitate a faster health emergency response system. The protocol should also include a secured, encrypted transmission of data, a unified data procedure for solution providers, compliance with the Data Privacy Act and the provision of real-time data access to accredited contact tracing app providers.

It is inconceivable that a country as populous as the Philippines that continues to grapple with the Covid-19 outbreak still has no unified contact tracing protocol after almost a year of lockdowns and quarantines. Proof of this disarray and chaotic approach to contact tracing, which should be one of the pillars of a credible pandemic response, can be found in the Metro Bacolod area where different cities have different contact tracing protocols and whatever haphazardly collected data is neither shared nor analyzed by any coordinating body.

Most nations are already at that stage of the pandemic when they have already rolled out vaccination programs. What does it say about the Philippines’ response to the Covid-19 pandemic that, at this point, still has neither a vaccination rollout program nor a unified contact tracing protocol?*

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