Duque says COVID-19 'contact tracing' reaching dead end

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 17 2020 07:15 PM

Students, mostly wearing facemasks walk outside the walls of Intramuros in Manila, February 11, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Locating hundreds of people who may have come in contact with a Chinese woman positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the Philippines has reached a dead end, the Philippines' top health official said Monday.

"Wala na talaga. Mahirap ang contact-tracing natin," Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told radio DZMM.

(It's already a dead end. Contact-tracing has become difficult for us.)

Instead of contact tracing, the country's health system will be focused instead on "case management" or the early detection and appropriate treatment of infected patients.

"Ang labanan dito ay case management na tayo, sa hospital talaga... 'Yong early detection, early testing, dapat maaga para maiwasan ang komplikasyon," Duque said.

(Fighting the disease is now through case management in the hospital. It involves early detection, prompt testing to avoid complications.)

As of Monday, Feb. 17, only 255 out of 740 people who may have come in contact with the country's third confirmed case of COVID-19 had been traced, the health department said in its latest advisory.

Of the number, 172 were interviewed wherein 155 completed their home quarantine. Fifteen patients who earlier exhibited flu-like symptoms were discharged while 2 left the country.

This includes the Chinese woman's co-passengers of her flights from Hong Kong to Cebu and staff of hotels and hospitals during her last stop in Bohol.

Meanwhile, authorities were able to locate 280 people who came in contact with the first 2 confirmed cases of COVID-19—a Chinese couple from Wuhan—in the country. The male Chinese tourist died.

Of the number, 221 had completed home quarantine while 14 were still ordered to self-isolate.

Of the 45 people who were considered patients under investigation (PUIs) after showing symptoms of the disease, 31 have already been discharged from the hospital, 6 are under strict monitoring, and another 6 have left the country after being discharged.

The Philippines is currently monitoring 171 patients suspected of contracting the new coronavirus strain while 350 have been discharged.

In China, the virus has killed more than 1,700 people and infected more than 70,000 others as Monday.