An official of the World Health Organization warned that the Philippines’ “slow” contact tracing efforts is compromising its own efforts to defeat the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

“I would say we are slow,” Dr. Socorro Escalante, WHO acting representative in the Philippines said about the rate the Philippines is conducting contact tracing efforts.

Speaking at an online forum hosted by the Philippine College of Physicians, the WHO representative said that the government should double its contact tracing efforts especially since the enhanced community quarantine would end at the end of May.

“We need to push harder and we really need to work harder,” she added.

The WHO representative added that contact tracing should begin once a suspect COVID-19 patient visits a hospital.  The government commences contact tracing once the lab results confirm the infection.  By that time, Escalante said, the patient has already spread the infection to many people.

“Delay in contact tracing needs to be addressed because otherwise, we are not going to catch up with the transmission the virus,” Escalante said.

Researchers from the University of the Philippines warned the government about prematurely lifting quarantine restrictions, especially without mass testing which they predicted could lead to about 24,000 new COVID-19 cases and 1,700 COVID-19 deaths by June.

Malacañang had earlier said that it would leave mass testing efforts to the private sector as employees returning to work are not required to undergo testing before they can resume work.  (Rommel F. Lopez)