MANILA – The government should tap other sectors and re-task the Philippine National Police to take the lead in contact tracing, an essential component in the public health response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), a team of experts from the University of the Philippines (UP) suggested.
In the Covid-19 forecasts in the Philippines: Post-ECQ Report, the experts underscored the need for aggressive contact tracing which should be a “centerpiece” of the strategy in curbing the spread of the disease.
“We need a people’s army of contact tracers. A possible first step is to re-task the PNP from primarily manning checkpoints and/or arresting quarantine violators to take the lead in contact tracing teams. As contact tracing is similar to detective work, the police already have the basic skills to do it,” the experts suggested.
Through contact tracing, high-risk individuals would be identified and targeted for isolation or quarantine.
In doing so, a complementary step is to mobilize, on a voluntary basis, students from medical, nursing, and other allied health professions as contact tracers.
Each team could be composed of police and students but must be provided adequate support such as health insurance and the provision of personal protective equipment.
The use of technology may also help in effective contact tracing by providing digital device to minimize errors in reporting.
“The data reporting and platform should be standardized. This tracing data once anonymized can be incorporated into the Covid-tracker and must also be made open to all stakeholders,” it said.
Through effective contact tracing, infection transmission can be stemmed and the public may avoid reverting to enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or unnecessarily prolonging transition to general community quarantine.
In the same report, the experts said the ECQ had been critical in reducing transmission and deaths due to Covid-19.
But this does not mean that everyone should be complacent, as experts said “we are not yet on the other side of the curve”.
“We are still in the early part of managing this crisis. The pandemic is ongoing and continues to be a clear and present danger to us all,” the report said.
To sustain the efficient and effective implementation of the modified ECQ and all the other quarantines nationwide, everyone’s cooperation is necessary.
“Government cannot do everything. The cooperation of business, civil society, and each and every individual is necessary to ensure the effective implementation of quarantine rules, the safety of workplaces, and the strict enforcement of physical distancing and other important health protocols,” the report read.
The report was written by UP professors and OCTA research fellows/associate Guido David, Ranjit Singh Rye, and Ma. Patricia Agbulos, with contributions from UP professors Erwin Alampay, Rodrigo Angelo Ong, Benjamin Vallejo Jr., Ideacorp Inc. CEO Emmanuel Lallana, and Civika Asian Development Academy Managing Director Elmer Soriano. (ia/PNA)