The 15th L!STONG Ugnayan, COVID-19 ay Labanan online talakayan entitled “Intensifying the Local Contact Tracing Efforts on COVID-19” was conducted on May 11, 2020 with guest speakers from different agencies. A total of 1,331 local chief executives and fire marshalls participated via the Zoom meetings application.
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Call to Action
DILG Usec. Florece discussed the salient features of DILG Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 2020-077 entitled, “Rationalizing the Establishment of a Local Government Unit Task Force Against Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation”. However, he clarified that contact tracing is now assigned to the Department of Health (DOH) and the DILG.
The MC talks about the composition of the City/Municipal COVID-19 Task Force which is divided into four (4) teams namely: 1) Contact Tracing Team (CTT); 2) Diagnostic and Testing Team; 3) Patient Management Monitoring Team; and 4) Logistics and Resources Team.
DILG Usec. Florece also emphasized that the contact tracing efforts are aligned with the DOH’s strategy on detect, isolate, test, treat, and reintegrate.
He stressed that trainings are being provided for the members of the CTT and gave a preview of the mega COVID-19 facilities and swabbing centers in the National Capital Region (NCR) and Central Luzon.
“Since this is already the new normal, even if the communities have already transitioned to GCQ and eventually goes back to normal, we will still implement contact tracing until such time that a vaccine has been developed”, he added.
DILG Usec. for Communications and Public Affairs Jonathan Malaya further stated that, “We need to strengthen our contact tracing efforts because it is the key to the success of our national strategy. Everything begins with contact tracing because without contact tracing, we will not have detection and without detection, we will not have isolation and treatment.”
IATF Contact Tracing Official Application - Stay Safe PH Mobile App
Mr. David Almirol introduced the Stay Safe PH Mobile App which is the official application used by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) in contact tracing. He shared that it is a community-driven application that helps report health conditions and assess the social distancing system in an area.
Additionally, Mr. Almirol emphasized that the application is currently available for Android phones but will soon be made available for IOS phones as well. The application is highly recommended for use through a mobile phone for convenience. Most importantly, he claimed that the application is protected by the Data Privacy Act.
National Guideline on Contact Tracing
DOH Dr. Rio Magpantay discussed the national guidelines and approaches in contact tracing. According to him, “contact tracing is really the bottleneck these past few months because we really cannot find the real number of people who had close contacts with a positive case or even with suspects.”
An informative video was presented which highlights contact tracing as an effective public health intervention to stop the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, DOH Dr. Magpantay identified the goals of contact tracing such as 1) to interrupt ongoing transmission and reduce spread of an infection; 2) to establish epidemiological link or track the source of infection and contain further spread; 3) to alert contacts to the possibility of infection and ensure timely referral for management and care; 4) to provide diagnosis, health education and psychological support, and treatment to those who have COVID-19; and 5) to help prevent re-infection in a person previously treated of COVID-19 and learn about the epidemiology.
Furthermore, DOH Dr. Magpantay stressed the importance of an LGU’s good health care capacity in terms of contact tracing, isolation facilities, and a surveillance system.
Philippine National Police (PNP)’s Efforts to Local Contact Tracing
PNP PB. Gen. Rhoderick Armamento shared the national government’s strategy for beating COVID-19 through enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and social distancing, contact tracing and surveillance, a triage system and increased testing and improved case management of patients.
In addition, Gen. Armemento expressed the PNP’s continuous support to the DOH and DILG in expanding the contact tracing throughout the country, down to the barangay level. He added that CTTs should be organized in all barangays.
He also showed the various systems being utilized in contact tracing including the Case Management and Analysis System (CMAS) which identifies potential COVID-19 patients through link diagram and the Contact Tracing Data Integration and Generation System (CTDIGS) which tracks those with the disease through mapping.
Baguio City’s Success Stories
Mayor Magalong exhibited the pioneering efforts of Baguio City local government workers in contact tracing. He emphasized that it is his sole duty to order barangay lockdowns, to inform the local teams involved in contact tracing, and to encourage full disclosure of patients. With the latter, he highlighted that he contacts the patients directly to communicate with them and provide them with a paperwork that has an important line – “I can save lives.”
Moreover, he mentioned that for contact tracing to be successful, there should be a seamless collaboration between law enforcement, investigators, and health authorities and equipped with cognitive interviewing skills. In addition, the use of technology was acknowledged in aiding the contact tracers better with desirable results that leads to extensive testing. Lastly, Mayor Magalong underlined the importance of transparency which enhances the process because according to him, “Every second matters, not everyday matters.”
PNP Central Luzon’s current implementation on Contact Tracing
PNP PCol. Nick Torre III shared the best practices and experiences of Central Luzon in contact tracing highlighting the importance of the COVID-19 Task Force formation with individuals who underwent response trainings. Moreover, he stated that the region has performed exemplary documentation efforts of the COVID-19 patients’ profiles and made use of the technology available similar to Baguio City’s platforms.
“Hinanap namin ang lahat ng high-risk contacts at inendorse sa DOH”, he claimed showing that they are focused on ensuring an effective, time-bound, and efficient contact tracing process.