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'Hitler', 'Spongebob' not making COVID-19 contact tracing easier

With a lot fewer than the ideal number of contact tracers, many close contacts of confirmed or suspect COVID-19 cases are being left uninformed of the danger they're potentially facing.

According to Lilian Tiburico’s report on “Stand for Truth”, contact tracer Holly Gabrielle Dela Paz said the sheer number of contact forms at business establishments made it impossible for her and her fellow tracers. 

“Kunyari, for example, merong pumuntang positive patient kunyari sa establishment sa mall, matre-trace back ba namin lahat ng nagpunta doon? Hindi naman po,” Dela Paz said.

[Can we trace everyone at a mall after a customer turns out positive for COVID-19? No, we can’t.]

“'Tsaka minsan hindi naman totoong info ‘yung nilalagay ng mga tao. May nababasa ako doon ang pangalan Adolf Hitler, may pangalan Spongebob, maco-contact trace ba namin ‘yun? Minsan wala pang binibigay ng contact number,” she added.

[Sometimes, people don’t put their real information. I read the name Adolf Hitler once and Spongebob. Could we trace that? Sometimes there’s also no contact number.]

Dr. Herbert Docena, an assistant professor of the University of the Philippines, said a contact tracer told him as much when he tested positive for COVID-19.

He wanted to make sure even his close contacts at a supermarket were informed.

“Sabi niya, effectively, parang ‘wag na sir kasi hindi rin naman namin matatwagan lahat ‘yan,” he said.

[They effectively said that I shouldn’t bother because they would be unable to contact everyone.]

Worse, Docena said even the close contacts whom he knew were also never called.

Tracing czar and Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong said that the country’s contact tracing level had decreased.

From the previous 1: 7 ratio average in January, the ratio decreased to 1:3. This means that only three close contacts are traced per the COVID-19 patient.

“It’s a budgetary issue. Gusto man natin, gusto man ng Department of Local Government na magkaroon ng mas maraming contact tracers, eh talagang hanggang doon lang ang kaya ng ating pondo,” he said.

[It’s a budgetary issue. Even though we want it, even though the Department of Local Government wants more contact tracers, this is the limit of our budget.]

From the previous 50,000 contact tracers, only 15,000 were re-hired by the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

The country needs 135,000 contact tracers. --Joahna Lei Casilao/NB, GMA News