Duque admits ‘StaySafe’ contact tracing app had ‘almost no impact’
MANILA, Philippines — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III admitted on Wednesday that the benefits of the StaySafe application being used for contact tracing have limitations and have “almost no impact.”
“I think it’s very limited, almost no impact,” Duque told the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee that was investigating issues on the fund utilization of the Department of Health (DOH).
Duque made this remark when Senator Pia Cayetano raised the limitations of the mobile application. She said it was only a “digital log” of those who enter establishments.
“In truth and in fact, the StaySafe app is merely a digital log of ‘yung nakasulat sa parang logbook na papel. That’s all it does. It’s in our imagination that it is interconnected with the national government’s tracking system or the local government’s tracking system because it is not. So all it is is a log of who went in and out,” Cayetano said.
“Now who is tracking that? Who is going to alert that establishment if somebody is positive? Who is going to trace back when somebody is positive in the local government kung saan siya nagpunta (and where they went)? There is really no system that is doing that,” she noted.
Cayetano said that without people filling in these “gaps,” the application “is not going to do anything for you.”
“It’s just a log that individual establishments have,” she stressed.
Duque, for his part, said the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) “should really make the effort to explain” the benefits of StaySafe.
“Alam ko po dito, noong inadopt na ‘yan ng national government, naka-connect ‘yan sa ating COVID Kaya, ‘yung data repository system ng DOH. Kasi doon malalaman kung sino ‘yung mga nagpositive tapos sino ‘yung mga exposed. But it was March pa the last time we had an update,” Duque said.
(What I know is when the national government adopted this, it was connected to the COVID Kaya, the DOH’s data repository system. That’s how you will know who tested positive and who were exposed. But it was in March when we last had an update.)
“We will echo the concerns to the DICT during the next IATF,” he assured.
Based on the privacy statement of StaySafe.ph, the app does not ask for personal information like name, contact number, address, or email address. It said that it only uses Bluetooth for “exposure notification.” The app will notify the user if he or she has been exposed to other users who report themselves as positive for COVID-19.
In March, the Department of the Interior and Local Government urged local government units and the public to patronize the application to boost the country’s contact tracing efforts.
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