De Lima slams disastrous gov’t contact tracing efforts; thinks the gov’t is stuck on policies that are fatal to public health, and to social and economic interests of the public


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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima bewails the government’s failure to carry out proper and effective contact tracing efforts, which is vital to an efficient and effective COVID-19 pandemic response plan of action.

De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, said that, with Delta variant now poised to infect thousands of Filipinos, it is now clear that the government “remains to be ill-informed, ill-prepared and ill-advised” on how to responsibly respond to the pandemic.

“When the government’s contact tracing czar admitted in May of this year that contact tracing remains the weakest link in PH COVID-19 response, it should have been enough of a wakeup call to get this government’s priorities straight,” she said.

“However, it is now nearly seventeen (17) full months since the first lockdown and past several surges of infection, yet this fact, along with many other medical data from neighboring countries, has been disregarded to the point of it now seeming like an outright dereliction of public duty,” she added.

De Lima further stated: “Tila ba isinuko na ang labang medikal at inabandona na ang taumbayan habang salitan ang sagutan, epalan at pamumulitika.”

Last May, contact tracing czar Benjamin Magalong reportedly confirmed that contact tracing efforts remain the “weakest link” in the government’s response against the pandemic, noting that the country’s contact tracing ratio average is only at 1:4, which is far from the target 1:15 ratio.

Moreover, Magalong told the House of Representatives health panel last Aug. 4 that the lack of funding to renew contracts and hire more tracers was now a major issue of the Philippines’ contact tracing program, especially as the need for more aggressive contact tracing grows.

Magalong said additional funds were needed to further extend the contracts of tracers currently hired until the end of 2021, as well as to hire more tracers.

The lady Senator from Bicol lamented how the Duterte government cannot move forward and contain the virus because they do not have an idea what they are doing in the first place.

Hindi maalam kaya’t hindi maagap, hindi handa kaya’t hindi makausad. Kailangan pa bang i-memorize ‘yan? Tatlong salita lamang yan: Test-Trace-Treat.  Pero hanggang ngayon eh puro lockdown saka curfew pa rin ang alam niyo. Bakit?  May oras lang ba ng paglabas ang COVID?” she asked.

“This question used to be amusing until everyone realized that we truly have an inutile President whose delayed and deficient actions are the textbook opposite of the meaning of ‘leadership’, as they still cannot keep up with the medical facts,” she added.

De Lima said the country is stuck with policies that are confusing, ineffective and downright fatal to public health and harmful to the economic and social interests of the public.

Additionally, De Lima said the Commission on Audit’s recent report that P29.256 million intended for the hiring, training, monitoring, travel and operational expenses of contact tracers were unspent is clear proof of the gross negligence on the part of the Department of Interior and Local Government.

“With their contracts having lapsed last July, it’s no wonder why we are here again enduring another lockdown. Panay utang pero hindi naman pala gagamitin para huwag nang madagdagan ang paghihirap ng mga mamamayan,” she said.

“This and the fact that billions of Bayanihan 1 and 2 funds were unspent and failed to reach our people in the form of ayuda and other social services raises one question: Saan niyo ba balak gastusin ang perang inutang? Aantayin niyo pa ba ang 2022 kung kailan nakataya na ang mga posisyon niyo sa susunod na halalan? Inuulit ko, ngayon kayo kailangan ng bayan,” she added.

Last year, De Lima filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 457 calling for a Senate investigation into the reported failure of the Department of Health and other concerned agencies in carrying out contact tracing efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 virus.

The National Capital Region formally reverted to a rigid enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) last August 6, which is the third round of hard lockdowns in the area since the Philippines confirmed the local transmission of COVID-19 in March 2020. It will run until Aug. 20. (30) 

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