WHO says the country can ‘do so much more’ when it comes to COVID-19 contact tracing and testing

Shortly after announcing that the highly transmissible Delta variant is now the most dominant COVID-19 strain in the country, the World Health Organization (WHO) has something new to say about the COVID-19 situation in the country. As per, the Philippines has, “so far, been doing well” but still, much more can be done in the areas of contact tracing and testing.

WHO Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe explained that 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.

He stressed the significance of accurate data and how the lack thereof will not yield the desired results. Contact tracing is essential to obtain such data. “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 granular lockdowns and contact tracing, Abeyasinghe recommends increased testing capacity. To be fair, 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.”

By following the WHO’s recommendations, the country might be able to better contain the soaring number of cases in the country. Let’s hope those in power listen to expert opinions.


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