Velasco pushes for a unified contact tracing protocol
MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has urged the government to come up with a unified contact tracing protocol to ensure a more effective health emergency data monitoring system in the country.
In filing House Resolution No. 1536, Velasco said the government needs to strengthen its contact tracing efforts by using the most effective and safest system to boost its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He noted that the Philippines has only been able to identify at least seven contacts for every confirmed Covid-19 case when the ideal contact tracing ratio should be 1:37 for urban areas and 1:30 for rural communities.
The proposed unified national contact tracing protocol, Velasco said, should include the designation of a government agency or body as the centralized repository of information to facilitate a faster health emergency response system.
The protocol should also include a secure, encrypted transmission of data, a unified data procedure for solution providers; compliance with the Data Privacy Act of 2012 in the handling of data; and the provision of real-time data access to accredited contact tracing app providers.
During the onset of the pandemic, Velasco said local government units (LGUs) had a hard time initiating contact tracing because the Covid-19 database lacked fundamental data such as phone numbers and full addresses.
As a result, numerous third parties offered disparate free contact tracing solutions, usually through mobile apps that require people to own smartphones, while some establishments continued to offer manual registration to non-smart phone users.
In November last year, IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) Resolution No. 85 prescribed the use of StaySafe.PH platform as the official Covid-19 management and monitoring app for government offices and LGUs.
However, some sectors, including tourism industry participants, prefer SafePass over StaySafe.PH, the House leader noted.
The disparate apps and non-centralized data repository led to redundant products, cost duplication, and less effective solutions often due to limited data access, Velasco said.
He said the data systems should include automated reports to aid in monitoring progress and outcomes of case investigation and contact tracing.
“It is observed that there is poor interconnection and data sharing between solution providers and the central database maintained by the Department of Health,” he said in a statement.
He added that data sharing agreements between local and national jurisdictions need to be established or augmented to ensure timely and accurate data collection and sharing.
“Some sectors have also expressed concern on unknown and unverified data privacy practices of various solution providers, including non-compliance with the data privacy law,” he said.
Velasco said there is a need for the modification of existing systems and the development of new user-friendly data interfaces to manage multiple data streams with seamless interoperability.
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