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WHO says PH 'can do much more' on COVID-19 contact tracing and testing

By AYIE LICSI Published Sep 07, 2021 12:46 pm

Compared to other countries that faced the full brunt of the Delta variant, the World Health Organization (WHO) says the Philippines has, "so far, been doing well" but still, much more can be done in the areas of contact tracing and testing.

In an interview today with CNN's The Source, WHO Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said it is "critically important" for the implementation of the granular lockdowns to be backed up by testing data to have results.

"If we're considering moving from a very stringent quarantine to a more relaxed quarantine with granular lockdowns, which is something WHO advocates, the critically important element is those granular lockdowns need to be influenced by very accurate data," said Abeyasinghe.

Abeyasinghe emphasized the importance of accurate data and how the lack thereof will not yield the desired results. And to obtain the data, strong contact tracing is a must.

"It's important to focus on where the transmission is happening and that information can only be generated through good, strong contact tracing, which has been characterized as one of the weakest points in the Philippines," he said.

In addition to contact tracing and granular lockdowns, WHO also advocates for increased testing capacity.

According to Abeyasinghe, the Philippines has improved on this, with now 275 labs, but the utilization rate for these facilities is at 50%. 

"We can do much more than the 70,000 tests being done. The issue is that testing should be used on the overall strategy," he said.

"Just random testing or testing of close contacts will not give us that full benefit. It's the asymptomatics and clusters that we need to identify."

Abeyasinghe added that increased testing and contact tracing will allow granular lockdown to play its part in breaking chains of transmission.

On Sept. 8, Metro Manila will be placed under the more relaxed general community quarantine with a granular lockdown system.

Thumbnail and banner photo by Michael Varcas/The Philippine STAR