Gov’t fast-tracking contact tracing efforts, national ID: NEDA

MANILA – The Philippine government is recalibrating its coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) response to better manage risks and fast-track solutions on contact-tracing and the national identification (ID) deployment, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said. 
“Instead of shutting down the entire economy, we only close down the sectors or the areas with the higher risk and allow 98 percent of the people with no Covid symptoms or risks to continue working,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said in an interview Monday on ANC’s Headstart. 
Chua said the country saw a lot of businesses closed during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) last year. 
“This year, we are seeing some reopening. When we imposed the ECQ in the National Capital Region Plus (NCR Plus) area, we did not close public transport and allowed as many workers to go to work as possible,” he added. 
Chua said the government is intensifying the Prevent, Detect, Isolate, Treat, and Recover (PDITR) strategy during the ECQ and modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) period to facilitate the reopening of the economy. 
To strengthen the ‘detect’ and ‘isolate’ pillars, NEDA, the Department of Health (DOH), and some local government units (LGUs), with the help of data scientists from the Asian Institute of Management, are working on a solution to automatically determine likely close contacts of Covid cases and immediately notify these people via text message.  
“We have a manual system right now, and it takes seven days from detection to isolation. We are working to bring that down to 5.5 days. This could reduce the cases by more than half,” Chua said. 
In addition, the NEDA chief underscored how the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) will aid in the vaccination rollout.  
“When it is the turn of the general population to be vaccinated, we intend to use the national ID as another way to queue and register them,” he said. 
Providing an update on the online PhilSys step 1 registration system, he said: “We are reviewing our system so that we can increase the capacity to serve more simultaneous users per minute. We assure you that we are fixing this. We have experts all over the world helping us and we will relaunch the system as soon as we can.” 
Chua also reiterated the components of the three-pronged economic recovery strategy: first, safely reopening the economy, while strictly adhering to public health protocols and intensifying the PDITR strategies; second, fully implementing the recovery package, especially those whose budgets have already been allocated but not yet fully spent; and third, ensuring the timely rollout of the vaccine program to cover the entire adult population. 
Signed into law by President Rodrigo R. Duterte in August 2018, Republic Act 11055, or the Philippine Identification System Act, aims to establish a single national ID for all Filipinos and resident aliens.
The national ID shall be a valid proof of identity that shall be a means of simplifying public and private transactions, enrollment in schools, and the opening of bank accounts.
It will also boost efficiency, especially in dealing with government services where people will only need to present one ID during transactions. (PR)