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Government ramps up contact tracing, a new tack against virus

The Health department will lead other agencies in a revitalized strategy against the COVID-19 pandemic to fight it more effectively.

The new strategy surfaced after President Rodrigo Duterte re-imposed the modified enhanced community quarantine or MECQ status in Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal and Bulacan from Aug. 4 to 18.

READ: Rody okays shift to MECQ

“Our purpose in implementing the MECQ is to improve our contact-tracing. Under Oplan Kalinga, all positive and contact suspects should be tested,” Interior Secretary Eduardo Año told ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo.

Duterte ordered the re-imposition on Sunday as the country reported a record number of infections for a fourth straight day with 5,032 new cases, raising the nationwide total to 103,185.

The number of COVID-19 cases could reach 150,000 by the end of August if certain steps were not taken to arrest the virus spread, a researcher said earlier.

Under the MECQ, quarantine passes will again be required and only authorized people will be allowed outside their homes to avail themselves of essential services, Año says.

Public transportation will also be halted and business owners are urged to provide shuttles for their workers.

Manufacturing plants and other establishments will be allowed to operate with limited capacity.

Checkpoints, especially those leading to the areas under the general community quarantine and modified GCQ, will be strictly monitored.

Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said placing Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal and Bulacan back under MECQ would allow the government to intensify its contact-tracing efforts.

She says the 14-day MECQ in the five areas will give the government agencies a "breather" in assessing the implementation of localized lockdowns.

Meanwhile, a former Health secretary says officials need to identify the areas with a "silent epidemic" to stop the COVID-19 transmission.

The 14-day lockdown period will buy time for health-care workers as they "take a respite from the ever-increasing cases," Paulyn Ubial told ANC.

"What we need to do is sit down and map out the areas of high incidence and identify the areas where we have stricter lockdowns or movement of population,” Ubial said.

“We have to identify the areas where we think there's a silent epidemic, where we need to increase the number of people tested, identify the areas where we need to beef up the health system so even the serious and critically ill can be helped.”

Recent data show a significant increase in COVID cases, with record-high numbers reported consecutively in the last four days from the areas recently placed under the MECQ.

The data also show that the increase is primarily driven by clusters within the barangays. By focusing resources at the barangay level and shifting to this community-focused strategy, the Health department and other agencies will be able to address the rise in the number of cases through the stricter enforcement of localized lockdowns and the implementation of the Coordinated Operations to Defeat the Epidemic or CODE beginning Aug. 3.

The CODE is a patient- and community-focused response strategy with key elements incorporated from the Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Test-Treat strategy. The key components of CODE include community engagement activities to promote preventive behaviors, active case finding via house-to-house symptom checks, RT-PCR testing for symptomatic patients, and Oplan Kalinga application for those needing quarantine and isolation.

READ: 400 Caloocan COVID contact tracers on 4-day full training

Topics: COVID-19 pandemic , Rodrigo Duterte , MECQ , Eduardo Año
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