Gatchalian: Contact-tracing woes could put safe schools reopening plan in jeopardy

Published May 6, 2021, 11:35 AM

by Hannah Torregoza 

The government’s plan to safely reopen schools to conduct limited face-to-face classes would be undermined if problems on contact tracing are not immediately solved, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian warned on Thursday, May 6.

While Malacañang announced that it’s “all systems go” for the rollout of, a system designed to aid in the management of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the Philippines, contact tracing czar Benjamin Magalong revealed in a public briefing that the government’s official contact tracing application was rejected by the Department of Health (DOH).

Magalong also said the contact tracing app remains under study by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and called it the weakest link in the country’s COVID-19 response.

“Mahigit isang taon na simula noong tumama ang pandemya sa atin ngunit patuloy pa rin ang mga isyung kinakaharap natin sa (More than a year since the pandemic hit the country and yet we still continue facing issues on) contact tracing,” said Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.

“Paano natin matitiyak ang kaligtasan ng mga guro at mga mag-aaral kung hindi sapat ang ating sistema para matukoy kung sino ang mga nanganganib na magkasakit (How can we ensure the safety of our teachers and students if we don’t have sufficient systems that would identify who are in danger of contracting the disease)?” he pointed out.

Gatchalian earlier urged the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to consider implementing a unified contact tracing system to ensure the safety of school teachers and students in the roll out of limited face-to-face classes in low-risk areas.

He sponsored Resolution No. 92, which the Senate adopted last March. The measure seeks to give the provincial, city, and municipal school boards the task of assessing whether to reopen, adopt selective school or localized lockdowns, and resume face-to-face classes in their localities.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones earlier disclosed the Department of Education (DepEd) already selected 1,900—out of the 47,000 schools in the entire country—for the gradual implementation of face-to-face classes.