Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has called for a Senate investigation into the reported failure of the Department of Health (DOH) and other concerned agencies in carrying out contact tracing efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 virus.
In filing Senate Resolution (SR) No. 457, De Lima underscored the need to improve the dismal response of DOH against the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the country and update the public on the status of the government’s contact tracing efforts.
“The problem of contact tracing remains a persistent issue that needs to be addressed as it gravely affects the government’s ability to formulate an effective public health response to the pandemic,” she said.
“An investigation is necessary to look into the failure of the DOH and other concerned agencies in effectively carrying out our tracing efforts and mandate these offices to expeditiously implement corrective actions noting their inability to flatten the curve and control the increase in positive COVID-19 cases nationwide,” she added.
World Health Organization (WHO) officials earlier stressed the importance of contact tracing as a key component in every country’s public health response, along with isolation and testing efforts to contain and suppress the spread of the virus.
Last May 25, WHO acting representative to the Philippines Dr. Socorro Escalante already warned the government on what she described as “slow” contact tracing efforts, which requires identifying persons who may have been exposed to COVID-19 and following them up daily for 14 days from the last point of exposure.
A day after, the DOH reported that the country is in need of additional 94,000 contact tracers for the ideal ratio of one contact tracer per 800 people in order to control the spread of COVID-19.
Recently, former Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr. admitted that the current and lone contact tracing app StaySafe.ph has privacy protocols issues, adding that there are serious questions surrounding its ability to actually do contact tracing.
De Lima lamented the seeming deliberate negligence, if not inaction, on the part of the DOH regarding its contact tracing mechanisms and protocols which she stressed “is an essential part of a multi-pronged approach to successfully fight the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“If unacted upon, the slow contact tracing can lead to more preventable infections and further delay not only our COVID-19 containment efforts, but also our economic recovery,” said she.
According to data from Worldometer, the Philippines has 35,455 total cases of COVID-19 infections, ranking the Philippines 15th highest out of a total 49 countries in Asia, as of June 28. (30)