Aggressive contact tracing, expanded testing key to flatten curve

CLARK FREEPORT ZONE, Pampanga — National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) said that aggressive contact tracing and expanded testing are keys to flatten the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) curve.  

In her talk during the Coordinated Operations to Defeat Epidemic (CODE) Team Visit in Region 3, Department of Health (DOH) Health Emergency Management Bureau (HEMB) Director Gloria Balboa said active disease surveillance is crucial, thus it is important that local government units (LGUs) know the capacity and operations target of contact tracing.

“Using the Magalong model, for every positive case, you need to find 37 close contacts. 70 percent of which, or about 26 have to be swabbed within 24 hours,” she said.

Balboa added that one positive case needs one contact tracing team, with all team members trained by the local health officer or local epidemiological surveillance officer.

Likewise, she advised LGUs to use the contact tracing application StaySafe.PH, which is integrated under the COVID Kaya.

Aside from testing close contacts, the DOH official also cited the need for expanded testing targets from Subgroup A to J. 

“LGUs are encouraged to test about 37 for every positive case per day, and this should be done in 24 hours and within 48 hours, they should test all those in a lockdown area. The target positivity rate should not be more than 5%, because if it exceeds, that means they have to test more since more individuals are infected in their area,” the HEMB chief said. 

Once a case is confirmed, Balboa said he or she should be immediately isolated within three hours upon or after identification to avoid spread of virus.

“While waiting for the results, close contacts need to be quarantined in a facility. Guidelines suggest that there should be one quarantine or isolation bed for every 2,500 individuals. As much as possible, all close contacts are to be quarantined in a facility, with the exemption for home quarantine only if they can comply with all the requirements,” Balboa said. 

Depending on the result of their swab test, and whether they are asymptomatic or not, they will be brought or referred to the appropriate facilities.

“As we expand and strengthen our disease surveillance and detection, there is a need to enhance our hospital capacity, as well as our infection prevention and control protocols including proper waste management system,” Balboa said. 

Aside from testing and isolation, she said that as we slowly mainstream to the new normal, it is important for the government to provide social assistance, safety nets, and mental health support to a recovered individual in order for him or her to be reintegrated in the community. 

“However, prevention is still the primary and most important step that we need to do by adhering to minimum public health standards and strengthening the health care system capacity standards,” she said.

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