Duterte confident gov’t can carry out COVID-19 contract tracing

Published July 21, 2020, 4:39 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

President Duterte is confident the government can carry out the “Herculean task” of contact tracing to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on July 21, 2020.

In a meeting with some government officials Monday, the President recognized that it was difficult to track down contacts of coronavirus patients in the country but expressed confidence in the capability of authorities to do the job.

“”Viewing the events of COVID — ‘yung dimensions ng COVID, in other countries, they have this efficient — ‘yung ano nila, ‘yung follow up na contact tracing. Iyong iba naman, dito sa atin mahirap (Viewing the events of COVID, dimensions of COVID in other countries, they have this efficient contact tracing. It is difficult for others like us),” he said during his televised remarks aired on state television Tuesday.

“But it can be done but I said it’s a Herculean task to do it,” he added.

The government recently assigned Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong to be the country’s “czar” in contact tracing efforts. 

As the cases of coronavirus continued to increase, the government intends to hire 50,000 people to boost the country’s contact tracing efforts.  A P15 billion for cash-for-work program for the hiring of contact tracers will be included in the proposed Bayanihan law.

At present, the government uses COVID Kaya Information System, a a case and contact tracing reporting system developed by the World Health Organization and DOH Epidemiology Bureau for health workers.

In the meeting with the President, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said they met with local government officials to share “best practices” from testing, tracing to treatment efforts. Early detection of coronavirus patients is important to help save lives, according to Duque.

Duque, in his report to the President, cited the comprehensive contact tracing efforts implemented by Mayor Magalong in Baguio City. He said they are able to trace 37 close contacts of a person who tested positive for the coronavirus.

“At maganda po ang naging resulta nito dahil naabot nila ‘yung mga tao, ‘yung first generation contacts hanggang sa second generation contacts at ito pong mga ito ay nate-test nila, Mr. President (It yielded good results beaus they have reached the first generation contacts up to the second generation contacts who are then undergo testing Mr President),” Duque said.

Presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. however informed the President about the low contract tracing rate implemented in some local government units.

He said some only managed to trace only three to 20 contacts of a coronavirus patient.  “Ibig sabihin, mayroon pong nakakawala na mga positive na gumagala po sa atin (It means there are still undetected positive cases roaming around us),” he said.