AN IMPORTANT element of contact tracing for those who may have been exposed to persons positive for the novel coronavirus is to give notice of their exposure to proper agencies.
Cebu City is expected to improve its contact tracing efforts following the arrival last week of a team led by Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong who is known for devising a strategy that led to a reduction in coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases in his city.
New and stricter rules being implemented in the barangays on the instruction of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID), however, may result in these contacts getting discouraged and withholding information about their exposure.
Anyone who has come into contact with a person found to be positive of the virus may reach out to the barangay for assistance in getting a swab test or a nasopharyngeal swab to collect a sample of nasal secretions from the back of the nose and/or throat. Once the test is scheduled, the contact would be picked up by a barangay shuttle and brought to the medical cluster where the barangay belongs.
But there is one condition. After the swab test, you cannot return to your home. You would have to be placed in the barangay isolation center (BIC) where you would wait for your results which may come in three to up to seven days. The only exception is if you live alone and there is no danger of you infecting others should you turn out to be positive. If you have other house occupants and you share a room and toilet with them, you will have to stay in the BIC. You can imagine the accommodations since the center is usually housed in the barangay school building.
There are other reasons why persons would not disclose an exposure to a Covid-19 patient. They do not have any symptom and they think they can handle their symptoms themselves if or when they occur. These are usually people who can afford to purchase their own medicine, who can treat themselves at home.
This is not advisable since they may turn out positive and may be passing the virus to others.
Magalong’s effective contact tracing strategy in Baguio City includes having confirmed cases disclose who they came into contact with and having these contacts take the test. He said 80 percent of confirmed cases gave the names of their contacts, making it possible for tracers to reach them and bring them to testing areas.
For Cebu City, the challenge is on how to reach the contacts and to convince them to take the test even if it would mean staying in the BIC.
Health agencies can release the contact tracing procedure to be transparent about the requirements and to inform people why it is necessary to be tested. If these contacts do not report their exposure, they may slip through the net and infect others.