Domondon: Why contact tracing is failing

AN EDITORIAL from the newspaper Inquirer published last April 1, 2021 came up with the title "Contact Tracing Fail," and pointed out that despite available contact tracing forms everywhere, as well as digital registration for the issuance of Quick Response Codes (QR codes), the national government appears befuddled on how to manage and utilize the collected information.

I would agree to the editorial that somehow the national government has failed to implement a unified, coordinated, robust and effective system of contact tracing nationwide and not for any other reason but simply because of the failure to understand the gravity of the situation.

Even now when highly urbanized cities and highly developed municipalities and provinces are experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases we learn that elected leaders have already begun campaigning for the next elections instead of seriously studying and evaluating the status and condition of their constituents and implementing further measures to mitigate the effects of the pandemic in their respective areas of jurisdiction. Not only that but they have also begun to ridicule and destroy the character and image of potential rivals hoping to gain whatever advantage might be obtained in the mud throwing and slur before the election arrives next year.

And this is why contact tracing has become a failure, for the national government at least, because there are no "pogi points" to be earned by the politicians in such an endeavor unlike say, the distribution of relief goods or the program to provide compensation for those displaced workers due to the pandemic.

The contract tracing program might even be viewed as anathema to a politician's career as an elective official since it would entail an intrusion into the lives of people who will then be classified as to their proximity to a Covid-19 positive individual or group of individuals and will thus somehow affect the peace and tranquility of their private lives and abode.

Also, contact tracing is a complicated and arduous daily grind that cannot and will not stop until someone is still being infected with the virus. Even when herd immunity is achieved in the future contact tracing as a primary tool of detection for the virus will still be in place as a vigilant measure to prevent the resurgence and spread of the plague.

This is why despite the honest effort and commitment being done by contact tracing czar and Baguio City Mayor Honorable Benjie Magalong to visit cities, municipalities and provinces to lecture and conduct seminars and workshops on how to implement an effective contact tracing scheme, the heart of some of these politicians/elected officials is simply not there. In fact, no matter how insistent the national government is to establish an effective unified contact tracing system and have this interlinked with a national database and a real-time monitoring platform it will not be heeded by those politicians/elected officials who are already in campaign mode for the next elections.

Baguio City Mayor Benjie Magalong already bared during a recent congressional hearing that the present contact tracing efforts in the country have severely declined in the past four weeks due to what he perceives are encoding issues in the utilization of data collection tools provided by the national government, and perhaps even connectivity issues with respect to various contact tracing apps created by private companies and used by the different local governments.

If the national government intends to overcome the challenge posed by the pandemic then at the very least it should already consider putting contact tracing as an urgent concern and a top priority by various concerned national agencies, as well as providing for sufficient funds for the contact tracers and directing all local governments to strictly adhere to the planned linking of all these collected data into one national database, under pain of sanctions and penalties.

This is imperative if the national government wants to avoid the fate now being suffered by some countries who forgot how to lead their people during a dire crisis, Brazil being one of them.


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