TAYTAY, RIZAL (8 AUGUST 2020)— The National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 continues to strengthen its partnership with local government units as part of its efforts to ramp up the nation’s testing and contact tracing capacity.

This, as the NTF COVID-19 and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) launched the Coordinated Operations to Defeat Epidemic, or COVID-19 CODE Team here on Saturday.

Anchored on by the objectives of the second phase of the National Action Plan Against COVID-19, CODE Teams are part of a national government-enabled, local government-led, people-centered response to the health crisis.

The CODE Teams, composed of experts from various line agencies, are tasked to provide technical guidance to LGUs, specifically by helping them develop action plans outlining strategies and measures they intend to carry out to address the pandemic.

Deputy Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process for Operations, and CODE team leader for Taytay and Antipolo, Undersecretary Isidro Purisima, stressed that these action plans must be anchored on prevention.

“Regarding the NAP (National Action Plan against COVID-19), dapat talagang i-localize natin ang intervention sa pag-spread ng COVID-19. Bago pa man magkaroon ng cases, kailangang ma-prevent na natin,” Purisima said.

“Dito po sa Taytay, siguradong affected ‘yung businesses dito ngayong MECQ. Kaya hindi po pwede na tuluy-tuloy ang lockdown,” he added.

Meanwhile, Taytay Mayor George Ricardo Gacula II thanked the national government for immediately responding to the issues being confronted by LGUs in the province.

“When we were under ECQ (enhanced community quarantine), 81 lang po ang kaso namin (ng COVID-19), March hanggang July. Nung pumasok ang GCQ (general community quarantine), kulang-kulang 400 na po ang aming kaso. Ngayon po nadama namin ang pagkalinga ninyo sa amin. Ang lahat po ng frontliners sa Taytay ay nagpapasalamat sa inyong dalaw,” Gacula said.

Among the concerns being faced by Taytay is its reduced testing capacity to conduct Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests. From a high of 60 PCR tests per day, the municipality’s current capacity has gone down to 15 daily.

Baguio City Mayor and contact tracing czar Benjamin Magalong, who was also present in the meeting to discuss the latest developments in the government’s COVID-19 response, promised that the NTF will act swiftly on the matter.

“Hindi ito pwede. I already spoke with (testing czar) Vince (Dizon), kailangang gawan ito ng paraan,” Magalong said.


Best practices

Magalong also shared Baguio best practices in contact tracing, as he lauded Antipolo City for having one of the most responsive and proactive anti COVID-19 interventions in the country.

“One thing I saw in other LGUs is kapag mahina ang leadership ng city health office, everything crumbles. So, dapat may focus, may direction. Nakita ko na maayos ang plans ninyo, at malinaw ang targets,” he said.

Magalong emphasized that contact tracing should always be a top priority of LGUs in their fight against the deadly virus.

“A lot of LGUs are so focused on COVID-19 response, addressing the needs of their constituents [at] saan kukuha ng pondo. Nakakalimutan nila ang contact tracing. Even before we go into testing, we must do contact tracing,” he said.

According to Magalong, the ideal contact tracing ratio for a city is 1:37, or every positive case, 37 of their close contacts are identified. For municipalities, the ratio is 1:30.

“Hindi pwedeng 1 is to 5, kasi halimbawa COVID-19 positive ako, ilan ang mahahawaan ko? At ilan ang mahahawaan nila?” he said.

For her part, Antipolo City Mayor Andrea Ynares pledged to work closely with the COVID-19 CODE Team, saying this shared responsibility will be the key in addressing the challenges brought about the pandemic.

“All goals are achievable through unity, and this is why we are here for today,” Ynares said.

Purisima echoed Ynares’ call to action, reminding everyone that winning the war against the disease will largely depend on the commitment and support of all Filipinos.

“Importante ang participation ng bawat isa sa atin, from the local officials, to the barangay, up to the individual. Kanya-kanyang role po tayo dito,” he said. ###