South Cotabato develops app for COVID-19 contact tracing

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 24 April) – The provincial government of South Cotabato is developing a mobile application that will help speed up the tracing of people who might be exposed to persons infected with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. said their information technology department is currently working on the application and targeting its rollout before business activities in the province will start to normalize.

He said it will be deployed in business establishments that will open once the local government decides to ease the movement restrictions and the ongoing enhanced community quarantine.

The governor said all persons entering the establishments, especially shopping malls, will be logged into a database to facilitate faster contact-tracing in case one of them will eventually turn out positive of COVID-19.

“We’re working on a system that can be deployed in tablets and cellphones,” he said in a briefing.

Tamayo said the system will be complemented later on by the rollout of the planned province-wide identification or ID system.

He said he directed in February the purchase of ID makers, which will be used to print “common ID cards” for every resident of the province.

The IDs may be used to log into the system when entering the establishments and their assigned numbers will be recorded in the database.

The logs will include the date and time when an individual entered a specific business establishment, he said.

“It will be useful, for instance in a drug store, when one of the customers would test positive of COVID-19. Through the database, we can trace everyone who were catered in a specific period that the patient was there,” he explained.

The availability of a reliable contact-tracing system was among the four major criteria earlier set by the provincial government in considering the possible reopening of the local economy after the end of the quarantine period on April 30.

The other considerations are the “flattening of the curve” or the reduction of COVID-19 cases for 14 days, availability of the patient care center in case of an outbreak and, the availability of medical front-liners and personal protective equipment.

As of Thursday night, the Integrated Provincial Health Office said a total of 135 suspect COVID-19 patients are being monitored within the province’s 10 towns and lone city.

It listed zero probable cases so far and one recovery out of the three confirmed COVID-19 patients in the area.

President Duterte, acting on a recommendation from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID), extended the enhanced community quarantine in Mindanao’s “high-risk areas,” namely Davao City, Davao del Norte and Davao de Oro, until May 15.

The other areas of Mindanao are considered either moderate-risk or low-risk, and will be under general community quarantine starting May 1, subject to further evaluation.

The IATF-MEID said in low-risk areas where there is no deterioration, the GCQ would be relaxed leading to normalization starting May 16. (MindaNews)