PH Health Dep’t ramps up contact tracing 5 months after start of COVID-19 pandemic

Health Secretary Francisco Duque confers with a colleague. Photo: Department of Health/FB
Health Secretary Francisco Duque confers with a colleague. Photo: Department of Health/FB

Better late than never, Department of Health?

The Duterte government is planning to ramp up its contact tracing efforts after the Philippines recorded at least 6,300 COVID-19 cases yesterday, a new record-high.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said today that the government plans to adopt the RABI model of contact tracing, as recommended to them by Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong, the administration’s “testing czar.” Magalong suggested that the government should trace at least 37 contacts of one COVID-19 patient.

“We are going to adapt the RABI model which was adapted from Mumbai [in India] where they did house to house and they were able to identify all symptomatic [COVID-19 patients]. They were able to test them and even their contacts. Somehow, they were able to contain the transmission,” Vergeire told cable channel ANC.

Vergeire said they have decided to adopt the model in Metro Manila and Region IV-A, where the majority of COVID-19 cases come from. The undersecretary said this was necessary because locking down parts of the country to stop the spread of the virus could no longer be done.

Read: Duterte scolds health experts for trying to ‘demean’ gov’t, claims they’re ‘not doing anything’

At present, the modified enhanced community quarantine has been reimposed over Metro Manila and several other areas after health workers asked for a “time out” so that the government could come up with a better response strategy.

“[During contact tracing] there are different officials going down, and together with the local health officials so that we will be able to identify symptomatic [patients] in the villages, in the community. We will be able to isolate them. We have identified priority villages in the National Capital Region and Region IV-A so that we would be able to start with them in the next two weeks,” Vergeire said.

The health official added that contact tracing will be done by government officials and members of non-profit organizations.

Critics have said that the pandemic in the Philippines has become worse due to the Duterte government’s lack of comprehensive strategy, poor contact tracing, and the inadequate number of healthcare workers, among other factors. Meanwhile, other Southeast Asian nations appear to have controlled the spread of the coronavirus, such as Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

As of yesterday, the country has logged a total of 112,593 COVID-19 cases, with 2,115 deaths and 66,049 recoveries.





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