By Hannah Torregoza
The Philippines is having a hard time “flattening the curve” on the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 because of the lack of contract tracing and continued testing on the part of the Department of Health (DOH),Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said on Sunday (May 3).
The number of confirmed cases in the country climbs steadily — as of May 2, there are 8,928, with 1,124 recoveries and 603 deaths.
“Ang problema, may pagkukulang ang pamahalaan. Halimbawa, non-existent ang contact tracing natin. Sa ibang bansa, napaka-conscious nila sa contact tracing. Once may ma-infect sa isang lugar, inaalam agad sino nalapitan at sino pwede mahawaan, at quarantine agad nila ‘yan,” Lacson said in an interview over DZRH radio.
(The problem is, our government has shortcomings. For example, our contact tracing is non-existent. Others countries are so conscious of contact-tracing. Once someone is infected in a certain place, they immediately find out who were with the person and who can be potentially infected, and they quarantine them immediately.)
“Sa atin, nonexistent. Wala tayong narinig sa DOH o IATF na may contact tracing na umiiral,” Lacson added.
(In our case, it’s non-existent. We don’t hear anything from the DOH or the Inter-Agency Task Force that there is a prevailing contact tracing.)
That is why, Lacson said, an extended enhanced community quarantine was inevitable because the number of COVID-19 cases is climbing steadily in the Philippines.
“At kulang na kulang ang nate-test natin, kasi di pa tayo pumapalo man lang sa 100,000. Sa 100,000, parang 80-plus thousand pa lang nate-test natin, at pumapalo tayo higit 8,000,” he pointed out.
(And we also lack testing, because we haven’t even reached 100,000. Out of 100,000, we have tested only about 80,000 plus, and the number of cases here is beyond 8,000.)
Lacson, one of the senators who called for Health Secretary Francisco Duque III’s resignation, said he is disappointed that there were no changes enforced in the government’s COVID-19 response even after they signed the resolution calling for him to step down.
“Wala (ang pagbabago galing kay DOH Sec Duque) kasi ang policy mismo masama. Nag-utos ang Pangulo na magkaroon tayo ng rapid testing. E hindi naman sinusunod,” he said.
(There’s no change coming from DOH Secretary Duque because the policy itself is bad. The President has ordered that we conduct rapid testing. But that is not being done.)
Until now, Lacson said the discussion during IATF meetings is still centered on what test kits should be used against COVID-19.
“Samantalang, nagpahayag ang Pangulo openly, ‘on my authority,’ gamitin ninyo ang rapid test kits na ‘yan para mas marami tayong masakop. Kasi limitadong-limitado ang PCR-based,” he said, referring to the polymerase chain reaction test that the DOH is using as its standard for COVID-19.
(The President has openly declared, ‘on my authority,’ to use the rapid test kits so that more people can be tested because PCR-based tests are very limited.)
“At maski nagkaroon ng PCR-based tests, hindi naman nara-run ang mga tests, ibig sabihin di alam ang resulta. Di ba napakarami nating naririnig — namatay na at lahat, di pa nakukuha ang resulta,” he added.
(And even if we have the PCR-based tests, they’re not running the tests, that means the results are unknown. We’ve heard so many times — the patient has died and all, but there are still no results.)
Lacson recalled that what peeved senators in its first committee hearing on the novel coronavirus was that Duque failed to do the initial, and probably the most important, contact tracing on the Wuhan-based couple who took the Cebu Pacific flight from Cebu to Manila.
In the hearing, the DOH chief admitted that only 17 percent of the Chinese couple’s co-passengers were contacted and told to undergo quarantine.
“How can we flatten the curve if we are not testing enough? Without an efficient contact tracing, how can we arrest the spread of the virus?” Lacson said. “Yet it’s still the same mistake being committed up to now.”