LGUs asked: Step up tracing efforts

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    BAGUIO City Mayor and contact tracing czar Benjamin Magalong yesterday urged local government units (LGUs) to step up contact tracing efforts amid the continuing spike in COVID-19 infections nationwide.

    He said the country’s contact tracing ratio for COVID-19 patients and their close contacts has gone down to 1:6. He said the ratio has increased to 1:10 but was not sustained.

    Magalong cited several reasons for the low contact tracing ratio, including lack of effort from the LGUs and data collection system.

    Also, he said, COVID-19 patients could not recall all their close contacts when they are interviewed by contact tracers.

    Magalong said many patients cannot properly answer questions during interview because they are “confused” and “irrational” because they are thinking about their family and children.

    Magalong said LGUs should not focus on “F1” or first generation contacts.

    “They have to exert more effort, hindi lang ‘yung nakatutok lang sila doon sa F1, yung first generation (they should not only focus on F1, the first generation). And when I talk about F1, usually household lang (only), household contacts,” he said.

    Sen. Panfilo Lacson urged the government to be more open to criticisms in its COVID-19 response plan as he said some of these could help in improving efforts to fight the disease which has infected at least 600,000 Filipinos and killed more than 12,700 since the start of the pandemic last year.

    Lacson made the call a day after he decried the slow pace of the government’s mass vaccination program saying that at the rate it is going, it would take until 2033 before the target of herd immunity will be achieved.

    “Instead of rejecting constructive criticism, the government should accept it as part of their planning and continuing assessment,” Lacson said on radio dzBB.

    Lacson also enumerated the government’s missteps that he said hampered its response to the pandemic, including failing to come up with an effective contact tracing program at the outset, when the first COVID-19 case, that of the Chinese couple, was reported in January last year.

    He said the government also failed to ban the entry of travelers from China, and dilly-dallied in approving the kind of test kits to use.

    Lacson also disclosed that the private sector last year volunteered to enter into a joint venture with a foreign pharmaceutical firm to help manufacture COVID-19 vaccines in the country but the government said no.

    He did not name names.

    Lacson said the proposal would have enabled the country to manufacture vaccines, like India and Thailand.

    He also said the private sector also volunteered to procure 11 to 12 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine and donate 50 percent of the supply to the government, but again, the latter said no because it wants a government-to-government procurement scheme.

    “Government-to-government daw pero bakit ang unang nilapitan Sinovac na hindi naman government ito kundi private din?” Lacson said.

    Sinovac Biotech is a private Chinese firm that manufactures the CoronaVac vaccine. A shipment of 600,000 doses of CoronaVac arrived on February 28. It was donated by the China government which is sending 400,000 more doses. – With Ashzel Hachero