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DOH: Contact tracing must be done even if COVID-19 test results still pending

Contact tracing should be done even if the COVID-19 test result of a probable or suspect COVID-19 patient is yet to be released, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said. 

Vergeire issued the reminder during a press briefing on Wednesday as the Philippines recorded 224,264 COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday. Of this number, 158,012 recovered, while 3,597 died. 

“We follow the Magalong formula, iyong 1:37, meaning for every one COVID-19 patient, may at least 37 contacts na kailangan i-trace. This is our benchmark. If we are getting it, good. If we are not, we need to do more. But what is more important is not the ratio, but what we do beyond the numbers,” she said, referring to contact tracing czar and Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong.

“Kung makakuha ka nga ng 37, ano ang ginawa mo sa 37? Na-isolate ba sila immediately after eight hours [in contact with possible COVID-19 patient]? Iyong iba kasi, inaantay muna ang results bago mag-contact tracing. Hindi na kailangan na antayin ang COVID-19 test results. Kung na-expose sa probable or suspected COVID-19 patient, umpisahan na agad ang contact tracing,” Vergeire added.

Vergeire said that while contact tracing is a task for local government units, the Department of Health provides guidelines for its conduct and will come up with a revision to further improve contact tracing efforts.

“We are drafting a new contact tracing form which will include a portion on time elapsed since nakapag-contact tracing at gaano ba kabilis iyong contact tracing [na ginawa],” Vergeire added.

Based on government records, the country has at least 149,000 contact tracers and over 400,000 close contacts of COVID-19 patients have been traced.

Last week, Vergeire said around 40% to 80% of the case investigation forms on COVID-19 patients are incomplete which delays the government’s contact tracing efforts.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government earlier said it is targeting to start the hiring of contact tracers in September once the additional P5-billion appropriation under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) is released.

Vergeire, however, noted that the government’s COVID-19 response is improving, considering that the case doubling time is already at 10 days as of August 31 from 8.29 days at the end of June. 

Likewise, Vergeire also cited that the case mortality doubling rate also stretched to 14 days while reproduction number or the number of persons that a COVID-19 patient can infect has gone down to .977 from 1.5 persons during end of June. —KG, GMA News