Expanded testing, contact tracing: Ilocos Norte's response vs COVID-19 outbreak


Sep. 01, 2020 ...

The Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte (PGIN), through the concerted efforts of the Task Force Salun-at, is enforcing more proactive measures to control the recent virus outbreak in the Municipality of Sarrat where the first COVID-19 death in the province was recorded.

On August 28, IN-C36, a 62-year-old female who has pre-existing comorbidity from Barangay 9 San Lorenzo in Sarrat, passed away. Seven of her primary contacts have also tested positive for COVID-19.

The province is using "expanded and targeted testing" and speedy contact tracing to prevent the risk of further transmission. The province's Contact Tracing Team is now composed of the PGIN, Department of Health (DOH), Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), Office of Civil Defense (OCD), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

"We are conducting more expanded and targeted testing, which means we test all the close contacts. Agad-agad po nating ini-schedule sila for swab testing kaya we were able to catch the new active cases in the town," Provincial Health Consultant Dr. Norman Rabago said.

"We cannot test the 26,000 population of Sarrat, but we will do it in a more logical and more organized manner. We plan to test the 10% population in the critical and containment zones," he added.

Aside from donating one automated extractor machine to the Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital and Medical Center, the Provincial Government will also be setting up its PCR laboratory at the Gov. Roque B. Ablan Sr. Memorial Hospital to significantly increase the province's testing capacity.

Moreover, Fire Major Roxanne Parado and the Provincial Resiliency Office will work together in manning the Emergency Operation Center for COVID-19 Contact Tracing.

"We are looking for software applications to further strengthen our contact tracing. Mga applications na pwedeng gamitin kahit offline at walang internet," Governor Matthew Marcos Manotoc said.

25 Sitios of the eight affected barangays in Sarrat are currently under 14-day lockdown.

500 food packs were given to affected areas in Sarrat. Likewise, the family of the deceased IN-C36 was provided with cash and food assistance.

To fast-track the contact tracing, Governor Manotoc encouraged: "I appeal to Sarrat that everyone cooperates and be transparent. We need and rely on you to be upfront with us because we need your information."