A PART list congressman has questioned the slow progress in the creation of a national contact tracing portal and vaccination database, which would allow real-time verification of fully vaccinated individuals and provide the government a fast and reliable contact tracing system.
Ang Probinsyano Rep. Ronnie Ong said no amount of enhanced community quarantines (ECQ) can defeat the spread of coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) virus if the government is not equipped with the right tools to quickly identify and track down potential carriers and spreaders.
If only the government has a reliable contact tracing system, Ong said it is no longer necessary to reimpose ECQ, which has debilitating effects on the country’s businesses because possible spreaders are quickly traced and isolated Ong said the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) should help the government as a separate body to focus on the country’s information technology requirement.
He said DICT has allegedly remained practically invisible since itscreation in 2016 in the fight against COVID-19.
The lawmaker noted that the ongoing health crisis could have been an opportunity for the DICT to demonstrate its capabilities in information and resource-sharing and database-building but after more than two years into the pandemic, it has yet to create a reliable and verifiable contact tracing and vaccination portal.
This portal could have given the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) easier access to all the data needed to monitor and trace individuals who are possible COVID-19 carriers and at the same time provide a real-time verification for people who are already fully vaccinated.
“Nakakalungkot kasi ginawa ng Congress ang DICT para sa mga ganitong mga pangangailangan. We have the national data center so that we can create, collect and use this very important information in our fight against COVID-19. I’m really sorry to say pero hindi talaga nararamdaman ng publiko ang DICT. Parang wala tayong ahensya na ganito,” Ong said.
Ong lamented that even the online contact tracing portal “Stay Safe” is totally useless because it is not obviously connected to a system, which automatically tracks down possible incidents of close contacts with suspected carriers.
“These tools are useless if they are not connected to a system which can automatically cross-reference individuals who were tested positive of the virus and their possible close contacts. How can we contact trace by simply collecting data of the people going in and out of certain business establishments without even knowing who among these people are COVID-19 carriers?” Ong observed.
He also observed that there are certain establishments that utilize their own contact tracing apps, which also makes it impossible for the IATF to determine possible incidents of COVID-19 infection.
Even worse are establishments using logbooks that do not even require their clients to show their identification cards, Ong said.