Only 4-5 people traced per COVID case detected – Magalong
MANILA, Philippines — The country’s contact-tracing efficiency remains dismal, with only four to five close contacts traced for every COVID-19 case detected, according to Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, the country’s contract tracing chief.
As this was mainly blamed on budget constraints, Magalong called on local governments to be more resourceful and innovative in tracing people exposed to COVID-19-infected individuals.
The task remains a big challenge as the government does not have enough funds to hire more personnel and expand the reach of contact tracing operations, he said.
“Our local governments need to innovate and be more creative so they [can get] more contact tracers [using] their own resources,” Magalong said at the televised Laging Handa briefing on Saturday.
He said the ideal contact-tracing ratio was 1:37, or 37 contacts should be traced for each infected individual. The target was later brought down to 1:15 which was deemed more realistic. Magalong said the ratio hit 1:9 two months ago but this recently deteriorated to 1:4 to 1:5. This leads to low testing rate and failure to determine the extent of infection in areas concerned. Each person with the highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 can infect about six to eight people, he said.
“The contact-tracing efficiency ratio has to be high so that testing will also be high … testing determines how many cases there are in an area,” Magalong said.
Despite the continuous training of local government personnel for contact tracing, he said some local governments could still not address the surge in cases.
“Maybe they are overwhelmed with the daily number of cases or they don’t have enough contact tracers and encoders, which is why not all data are recorded,” Magalong said.
Earlier, Bloomberg ranked the Philippines as the worst among 53 countries in terms of COVID-19 resilience.
Bloomberg said the countries that ranked better had efficient systems for contact tracing, testing and health education.
Magalong defended the collection of personal information by business establishments from customers for contact tracing purposes, which raised concerns about possible violation of data privacy.
He said the data being collected were very basic and not as sensitive as those being sought by banks, for instance.
In another development, the Department of Health (DOH) on Saturday recorded 14,786 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of cases to 2,580,173.
In its daily case bulletin, the DOH said there remained 144,061 active cases. Of this number, the majority, or 80.3 percent, are mild cases, 13.4 percent are asymptomatic, 0.8 percent are in critical condition, 1.9 percent are severe cases and 3.5 percent are moderate cases.
The positivity rate, it said, was 22.1 percent, meaning about one in five of the 68,233 individuals tested positive for the virus on Thursday.
The DOH said there were 894 new recoveries, pushing the total number of survivors to 2,397,456. The DOH did not provide an explanation for the lower than usual recovery count.
It reported 164 new deaths, bringing the number of fatalities in the country to 38,656.
The DOH said 73 percent of all ICU beds and 65 percent of COVID-19 ward beds were occupied, while 61 percent of isolation beds and 54 percent of mechanical ventilators were currently in use.
Two laboratories failed to submit data on time, while 100 duplicate cases were removed from the total case count. Meanwhile, 91 cases previously tagged as recoveries were reclassified as deaths after final validation.
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