Flattening the Curve
APART FROM mass testing, contact tracing should have been included among the strategies to effectively break the pandemic’s chain of transmission. But government did not give this measure the importance it deserves early enough. The administration’s lack of appreciation of this imperative is another weak link in the Philippines’ pandemic response.
In July 2020, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, the WHO representative in the country, noted that while the government used the long lockdown in Metro Manila to expand its testing capability and treatment facilities, contact tracing “did not keep pace” with the expansion of the testing program.
A review of media coverage shows that contact tracing was left to the initiative of LGUs with little guidance from national authorities. It was only in July, four months after the lockdown was first enforced, that the president appointed Mayor Benjamin Magalong, Baguio City mayor, as the so-called contact tracing “czar.” Earlier media reports highlighted Magalong’s efforts to employ police investigative techniques to keep track of those who had been exposed to the disease or who were entering or exiting city boundaries.
Media noted how some cities had taken quick action, coordinating an impressive range of community responses aimed to stop the spread of the coronavirus in their localities.
In April, reports on the cities of Iloilo and Baguio provided a record of best practices of local governments outside Metro Manila, which remained the epicenter of the outbreak.
Unfortunately, however, the national agencies were not as attentive to these efforts and missed the opportunity to endorse best practice models for other LGUs.