ON TUESDAY, August 17, 2021, the Davao City Council passed on third and final reading "An Ordinance Providing For Mandatory Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) Testing of All F1, F2, and F3 Contacts of an RT-PCR Confirmed Positive Case of Covid-19 in Davao City."
After its passage at the city council, it is now waiting for the signature of Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte-Carpio.
The newly-passed law covers F0 (confirmed positive), F1 (first-generation contact or those who have close contact with a confirmed positive individual), F2 (second-generation contact or those who have close contact with F1), and F3 (third-generation contact or those who have close contact with F2) within the city.
However, Section 6 of the ordinance states that F2 and F3 contacts are not required to undergo mandatory quarantine provided they will not exhibit influenza-like illness (ILI), but they must self-monitor, continue to observe minimum health protocols, and report for any signs and symptoms.
Index cases and close contacts will also be required to disclose their close contacts including their contact numbers and home or work address.
The ordinance penalizes those who will refuse to be tested, isolated, and quarantined and those who will refuse to give out accurate information needed for effective contact tracing.
Depending on what category you are in as close contact, penalties range from P500 to as high as P5,000. Violators may also face imprisonment. If the violator is a minor or below 18 years old, his/her parents or legal guardian will be fined or prosecuted.
Testing is among the primary strategies the local government unit (LGU) could implement in a bid to detect, trace, and treat or isolate Covid-19. Since the start of the pandemic, this strategy has allowed the LGU to control and prevent the spread of the Covid-19 cases. As a result, preventing other people from being infected.
While the intentions of the ordinance are good, there could be issues that could arise once it takes effect.
One of the issues that could come up is manpower. With the high number of daily new and active cases, do the LGU and DOH have enough contact tracers to spend the time to properly investigate and contact trace each case? There have been posts on social media of netizens who are close contacts of Covid-19 patients, that after the initial call from the contact tracer, they were not called back again. Some even did not receive a call 10 days after the initial call of the contact tracer.
Another issue is the testing capacity of the city. The testing capacity is affected by the availability of swab sites, people who will swab the close contacts, and the supply of materials for swabbing. Are there enough of these to cater to more people being tested for Sars-CoV-2?
How about at the swab sites, are there improvements in the system to ensure that there is no mass gathering of people?
There is also the issue with honesty. It is very easy for some to state that they have forgotten about certain details. Will our contact tracers have the time to verify each information provided by those who have been contact traced?
While it may not be an issue but making people understand the importance of testing will be a challenge. There are those who flat out deny the pandemic while there are those who simply fear getting tested. Hence, there is a need to refresh people about testing and its benefits to the fight against the pandemic.
As to who will cover the testing, at present, all the Covid-19 testings arranged by contact tracers are currently covered by the City Government of Davao.
Hopefully, the City Health Office and the Covid-19 Task Force have already prepared strategies to ensure that Covid-19 testing goes smoothly once the law takes effect.