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Contact-tracing centers in high-risk areas proposed

HOUSE Assistant Majority Leader and Quezon City Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo on Tuesday proposed the establishment of contact-tracing centers in areas where there is still a high incidence of new coronavirus infections.

Castelo’s proposal is contained in House Bill (HB) 7538, which calls for an efficient and systematic tracing and monitoring of COVID-19-positive individuals and the persons they made contact with.

“If contact tracing efforts will be done quickly and effectively, the impact of the pandemic will dramatically decrease,” Castelo, vice chairperson of the House committee on Metro Manila development, said.

“The importance of the process is that it guides the traced contact on what to do next, which may include self-isolation or isolation in a quarantine facility to prevent further spread of the virus,” she said.

Castelo filed the bill amid the significant number of COVID-19 cases recorded daily in the country.

The cases in August topped those in Indonesia, making the Philippines with the most number of new coronavirus infections, it said.

“Though the number of infections has gone down, new daily cases are still in the neighborhood of 2,000 despite the months-long lockdowns imposed by the government, which are the longest and strictest in the region,” Castelo said.

She said the lockdowns have caused the Philippines to enter a recession.

“Because of the restrictions that paralyzed transportation and trade, the country experienced the sharpest drop in gross domestic product in the second quarter this year,” Castelo added.

Under Castelo’s bill, the Department of Health (DoH) would determine the high-risk areas where contact-tracing centers would be established based on a standard metric.

Local government units, through their mayors or governors, may recommend that a barangay, city, town, or province may be classified as a high-risk area.

The centers would ensure that all individuals who tested positive for new coronavirus are interviewed for as many contacts as possible, with priority to close contacts.

They would also make sure that all traced contacts are monitored for symptoms, and where necessary, tested, isolated and treated.

A contact-tracing center shall be headed by a medical doctor. The DoH would be mandated to issue implementing rules and regulations.