The government has so far managed to control the spread of the coronavirus in the country but must still improve the contact tracing aspect of its pandemic response, Malacañang said Thursday.
According to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, contact tracing remains an “area for tremendous improvement” after a flood of tracing apps has merely caused confusion.
Roque admitted he was puzzled why Staysafe.ph, the government’s official contact tracing program, has not been widely used despite its launch a few months ago.
“Napakaimportante ng tracing kasi yung (Tracing is very important because) tracing will enable us to isolate the close contacts para maiwasan ang pagkalat (to avoid the virus spread) so I would say that an area for tremendous improvement will be the tracing, the use of the tracing app,” he said during a televised press briefing in Dumaguete City Thursday, March 11.
To immediately test and isolate persons with the illness, Roque said authorities must also follow the model developed by Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong to trace at least 32 close contacts of an infected person. Having too many tracer apps in the country also does not help in the pandemic response, according to Roque.
The government launched the StaySafe.ph application as the official contact tracing app back in September but some local government units and business establishments hav implemented their own tracking systems.
“Importante yung tracing. Talagang yung tracing, naguguluhan na ako. Nahihilo na ako (Tracing is important. I am confused, I am dizzy with the apps),” Roque said “Lalong lalo dito sa stay safe app. hindi ko maintindihan kung bakit hindi natin ginagamit ito at matagal na na-launch namin ‘yan (Especially with Staysafe app, I can’t understand why we have not used it since we launched it a long time ago),” he added.
Roque maintained that the government has been performing well in addressing the pandemic, citing it managed to limit the number of deaths and infections in the country. The Palace official earlier described the government’s pandemic response as excellent.
“We are managing COVID-19 very well, given our limited budget for health,” Roque said.,
He said when the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was imposed last year, the country was given leeway to expand its health care facilities and resources to care for patients infected with COVID-19. He insisted that the country has lower cases of infections and deaths compared to other wealthy countries with better health facilities.
“We are now able to take care of those who may fall seriously ill,” he said.
Roque said the country’s critical care utilization rate has not reached critical level. He cited that at least 60 to 65 percent of hospital beds for isolation, intensive care unit (ICU), and ward are available for use.
The country’s coronavirus cases have surged in recent days as new variants have been detected in the country. President Duterte however has blamed the case spike on the complacency of Filipinos after some have “abandoned” the health protocols. He renewed his appeal to the public to use masks properly and keep a safe distance from others to avoid getting sick.
More than 600,000 persons have been infected with the coronavirus in the country since last year. Around 12,000 people have died from the illness.