Contact tracing still 'weakest link' in PH COVID-19 response — Magalong

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 4) — Contact tracing continues to be the "weakest link" in the country's COVID-19 response, Baguio City mayor and contact tracing czar Benjamin Magalong said Tuesday.

"To be honest with you, I would say it is still the weakest link among the pillars," Magalong told a briefing.

Nationwide, contact tracers are able to identify at least four contacts of one coronavirus-hit individual, Magalong said. This is still far from the new target contact tracing efficiency ratio of 1:15.

In Metro Manila, the contact tracing efficiency ratio was at 1:5 as of last week, up from the 1:2 to 1:3 the week prior, Magalong said.

While the contact tracing efficiency ratio climbed in regions such as Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao and Davao Region, there was a decline in Cordillera Administrative Region, Bicol, and Western Visayas, Magalong noted, though he did not provide figures.

The government initially targeted to reach 1:37 for urban areas, and 1:30 for rural communities. But the "standard" contact tracing efficiency ratio was adjusted "to be more realistic" amid the current surge in cases, Magalong explained. However, the adjusted target will still have a "big impact" in managing the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, he pointed out.

Magalong earlier said the ratio of contact tracing efficiency nationwide went down from an average of 1:7 early this year to 1:3 during the early stages of the surge in March. This means contact tracing is usually limited to a coronavirus-positive patient's household, he said. 

Magalong appealed to local governments to closely monitor their contact tracing efforts and use the analytical tools that the national government provided them with.