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Duque admits ‘StaySafe’ contact tracing app is ‘very limited’, had ‘almost no impact’—almost a year after its launch

By Hannah Mallorca Published Aug 26, 2021 5:45 pm Updated Aug 26, 2021 6:19 pm

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III admitted that the features of the StaySafe contact tracing app, which was launched on Sept. 3, 2020, are very limited and have almost no impact on the government’s response against COVID-19.

“I think it’s very limited, almost no impact,” Duque said on Wednesday, Aug. 25, after he was questioned by Senator Pia Cayetano on the app’s effectiveness at a Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s investigation on the Department of Health (DOH)’s utilization of funds. 

According to Cayetano, the app is “merely a digital log” of those who enter establishments. She also stressed that without people filling in the necessary details, the app is “not going to do anything for you.”

“The StaySafe app is merely a digital log of ‘yung nakasulat sa parang logbook na papel. That’s all it does. It’s in our imagination that it is interconnected with the national government’s tracking system or the local government’s tracking system because it is not. So, all it is is a log of who went in and out,” she noted. 

“Now, who is tracking that? Who is going to alert that establishment if somebody is positive? Who is going to trace back when somebody is positive in a local government kung saan siya nagpunta? There is really no one or no system that is doing that. It will entirely be up to the LGU to determine based on their contact tracing,” Cayetano added.

Duque, however, said the “Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) should make the effort to explain.” He also noted that the DOH was last updated on the app’s effectiveness in March 2021. 

“Ang alam ko po, noong in-adapt siya ng national government, naka-connect sa ating COVID Kaya, ‘yung data repository system ng DOH. Kasi doon malalaman kung sino ‘yung mga nagpositive tapos sino ‘yung mga exposed. But it was March pa the last time we had an update,” he added.

Duque stressed that DOH “will echo the concerns” to the DICT during the next pandemic task force meeting. 

‘Weakest point’

In March, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque admitted in a public briefing that contact tracing is the “weakest point” in the government’s efforts against COVID-19.

“Contact tracing is very important because tracing will enable us to isolate close contacts and avoid the spread of the disease. So I would say that an area for tremendous improvement will be the tracing, the use of a tracing app,” Roque said.

In a separate statement, the Department of the Interior and Local Government urged the public to patronize the StaySafe app to boost the country’s contact tracing efforts.

StaySafe having ‘almost no impact’ concerns Palace

In a press briefing today, Aug. 26, Roque said the StaySafe app having “almost no impact” was a cause of concern for Malacañang. He also stressed the importance of automation in the country’s efforts against the pandemic. 

“We will ask the DICT to explain kung bakit ganyan ang naging conclusion ni Secretary Duque. In any event, that’s a cause for concern for the Palace because alam nating importanteng-importante ang automation para sa contact tracing,” he said.

The StaySafe mobile app, created by Manila-based developer Multisys Technologies Corp., was launched at SM Manila on Sept. 3, 2020. The app was slated for a nationwide rollout in May. 

PhilSTAR L!fe has reached out to MultiSys for a comment but the company has declined to comment.

Banner and thumbnail photos from StaySafe PH and Presidential Communications (Government of the Philippines) on Facebook