Tracing czar Baguio City mayor Benjamin Magalong.
By Tracy Cabrera
MANILA — People, as well as some local officials, are apparently unaware of the importance of contact tracing in our fight against the coronavirus global pandemic, according to Baguio City mayor Benjamin Magalong.
In increasing despair over the unabated spike in Covid-19 cases, Magalong bewailed the government’s current contact tracing system which has steadily declined in the past weeks, thus contributing to the surge in the number of infections in the country.
Speaking at an online meeting of the House committee on health, the self-proclaimed contact tracing czar Benjamin Magalong expressed doubts in achieving success in the effort of lessening the number of Covid cases with the national contact tracing efficiency ratio decreasing to 1:3.
“For the past four weeks, you can see that it really deteriorated. And look at the average—from 1:7, this is the national average—it went down to 1:3,” he noted, visibly shaken with the data.
He reiterated his firm stand to implement a genuine contact tracing system, saying that health experts and even the World Health Organization (WHO) have warned that without an efficient contact tracing method, any effort to contain the pandemic would be in jeopardy because those who will not be detected as infected with Covid-19 or are asymptomatic will be unaware of the possibility that they are the ones spreading the disease.
Magalong revealed to the health committee that in Metro Manila, where the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic has been pinpointed, the patient to close contacts ratio had been logged at a 1:5 ratio from February 28 to March 14 and this decreased to a low 1:3 (ratio) from March 15 to 29.
A survey conducted by a private group found that many business establishments, such as restaurants and supermarkets, and even a number of government offices are not following the required accomplishment of contact tracing forms by visitors and some don’t even know whether the information given in the forms are authentic or not.
And this is likewise apparent, the survey showed, in public transportation where most passengers and commuters no longer write down the needed contact tracing data on forms that should have been provided to them before they could proceed to ride on the bus, jeepney, or taxi and even in tricycles.
Prior to the Baguio City mayor’s pronouncements, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has been repeatedly calling on all local government units and the general public to use the national government’s official contacting tracing application StaySafe.PH for a “consistent and unified” digital contact tracing.
“Instead of using other apps, it is imperative for (local governments) to use the StaySafe app for a unified system that will allow seamless, fast, and efficient contact tracing efforts,” DILG officer-in-charge Bernardo Florece Jr. has urged in repeated statements online briefings and social media posts.
Florece said that the DILG aims to reach at least 50 million users and connect all 1,634 city and municipal local governments across the country to make the contact tracing app effective.
Basically, the app will send a notification if you have been exposed to a person infected with the virus in the past days made through digital identifiers received by phone via the Bluetooth’s 100-meter range.