Magalong gives 'barely passing' mark for Metro Manila's contact tracing

A seven out of 10.

That's the score Contact Tracing czar and Baguio City Mayor, Benjie Magalong gave contact tracing efforts in Metro Manila even as local government units (LGUs) continue to grapple with the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Mayor Benjamin Magalong (JJ Landingin / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
Mayor Benjamin Magalong (JJ Landingin / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

"Doon naman po sa analysis ng data na pinakita ko sa inyo kanina tungkol po sa situation sa Metro Manila (As far as the data I presented on the situation in Metro Manila is concerned), you can see that there was an improvement in contact tracing. Pero kulang (But I find it lacking)," Magalong told members of the House Committee on Metro Manila Development during a mixed live and virtual hearing Wednesday.

"I would say, if you tell me, passing rate? Sabihin ko lang po siguro nandun lang siya sa siete, seven. Hindi ko po ine-expect (I would say that it's around seven. I wasn't expecting it)...I was hoping po sana magkaroon po ng eight, nine. Pero I would say nandoon lang sa passing grade (But I would say that it's right at the passing grade )," he said.

A score of seven may even be too generous--in his presentation, Magalong noted that Metro Manila's contact tracing ratio of 1:3 for the period of July 28 to August 3 has improved to 1:5 for the August 11 to 18 time frame.

He said the benchmark is 1:37, meaning for every one COVID-infected person, 37 close contacts must be identified and accounted for.

"As I've said, our benchmark is 1:37 and that is based on our experience (in Baguio) wherein we were using four teams per case. So we were able to identify more close contacts or high-risk areas."

Manila 1st district Rep. Manuel "Manny" Luis Lopez, committee chairman, welcomed in his opening speech the expertise that the Baguio mayor has recently brought to the table in the campaign against COVID-19.

"Last month, the National Task Force Against Covid-19 recognized the contact tracing model of Baguio City as a beam of light in our continued fight against COVID-19 and named its mayor, Gen. Benjie Magalong, as the contact tracing czar," Lopez said, adding that the move is a potential "game-changer."

"Using his vast former Chief of CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group), he introduced a 'contact tracing ecosystem' in partnership with the police public safety specialists and the health-workers," the solon said.

Magalong told the panel that there's a need to further enhance the contact tracing efficiency ratio among all LGUs.

"There is also an urgent need to develop contact tracing champions in all LGUs especially kung yung (if the) mayor is not so much involved. So we would rather look for councilors or probably head of departments to be the contact tracing champion," he said.

This notwithstanding, Magalong said that there "is a strong, direct correlation between local government performance in contact tracing and the level of involvement of the local executive."

The Baguio mayor has been going around the country in recent weeks to teach various LGUs about proper contact tracing.