SouthCot to close establishments rejecting COVID-19 contact tracing app

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 10 May) — Establishments across South Cotabato that will not adopt the contact tracing app developed by local experts will be temporarily closed until the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is contained, Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo, Jr. warned.

Amid the opposition expressed by some local leaders, Tamayo noted that the South Cotabato provincial government is ready to roll out the contact tracing app developed to help fight the spread of COVID-19 in the area.

South Cotabato. Map courtesy of Google

The provincial government’s information technology department developed the South Cotabato COVID-19 Contact Tracing System (SCCCTS), which was designed “to achieve an accuracy rate of 90 percent.”

“There is nothing “to worry” as far as privacy rights are concerned as this app merely digitizes the logbook system,” he said in a press briefing over the weekend.

He was referring to the name, address, and date and time usually required by offices on their clients to input on a logbook before they can transact business.

Tamayo said they are eyeing some 2,000 establishments to connect to the contact tracing system of the province.

Tamayo said a rapid household profile survey has been conducted in the different parts of the province for the data collection that includes the name, address and birth date of the respondents.

Those who enlist will be issued a card that will serve as a quarantine pass with QR codes that they can use to enter the establishments, he explained.

These quarantine passes will be scanned by the establishments, such as malls and drug stores, equipped with the contact tracing app that can be downloaded by smartphones, he added.

Tamayo, who once worked as a systems analyst, explained that once the quarantine passes are scanned, they will be logged into the server of the SCCCTS and if a person who enters a particular establishment later on becomes COVID-19 positive, the system can easily trace the others who were in the establishment then, and their subsequent interaction with others.

The governor nixed StaySafe.Ph, which is approved and promoted by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), saying its server might be overwhelmed if “100 million Filipinos” connect to the system.

Tamayo also claimed that the province’s contact tracing app “is stable and more accurate” than StaySafe.ph’s system.

The contact tracing app is one of the four criteria the provincial government earlier laid down as a condition to further ease the travel restrictions and the opening up of more economic activities in the area.

Two of the conditions have been met — the establishment of a COVID-19 hospital and the stockpiling of protective personal equipment for medical frontliners — while the setting up of a COVID-19 testing laboratory is still being worked out, Tamayo said.

Of the 11 local government units in South Cotabato, only Koronadal City, the provincial capital and Region 12 seat of government, rejected the province’s contact tracing app.

General Santos Drive, a main thoroughfare in Koronadal City, is deserted as the city implements “No Movement Sunday” on 19 April 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19. MindaNews photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

Koronadal Mayor Eliordo Ogena pushed the StaySafe.ph promoted by the IATF-EID instead of the province’s contact tracing app.

Ogena, a lawyer, expressed fears the province’s tracking initiative could infringe on privacy rights.

As of 6:55 p.m. Saturday, May 9, South Cotabato has three confirmed but recovered COVID-19 cases, data from the provincial health office showed.

Of the suspect COVID-19 cases, 10 remained in hospitals, 52 have been discharged, 48 outpatients and 15 have died, it added. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)

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