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Philippine province set to use QR code system for COVID-19 contact tracing

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for digitalisation has become more apparent and necessary. Government agencies are increasingly adopting innovative schemes to boost transactions and at the same time, prevent the further spread of the virus. This scenario is seen particularly in the healthcare sector where authorities continue to innovate in an attempt to contribute to safety and health protocols. 

The Provincial Government of Davao Oriental is in on this initiative. According to a statement, the province is set to implement the Davao Oriental Digital Contact Tracing System (DAVOR-DCTS). Once adopted, the project shall require all residents and non-residents to present their Quick Response or QR Codes when transacting with various private and public establishments in the province. 

Dr Reden Bersaldo, Provincial Task Force on COVID-19 Action Officer, made this announcement during a recently held online briefing. He emphasised that this new programme will be a “supplementary tool” not just for contact tracing but also for regulating the influx of tourists. 

He added that the distribution of cards equipped with unique QR Codes had already been initiated this month through the help of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office or the PDRRMO.  

The cards had been distributed to 10 municipalities and one city in the province. The Action Officer said: “Those who had already received their QR codes were Davao Oriental residents who were included in the manual registration which started in November 2020.” 

Of the total number of individuals initially registered under the system, residents aged 15 to 65 were considered as Authorised Persons Outside Residence (APOR). 

While the release and adoption of QR Codes was a digital concept, the Task Force Officer mentioned that initial registration was done manually as not all have access to the internet or own mobile phones and computers. He stated that “this way, even those in the hinterlands will be served.” During the first batch of registration, barangay workers collected pertinent and personal details of residents. 

As to succeeding registrations, those who were not able to register manually may secure their QR Codes via online means. The provincial government advised that the link for the online registration shall be uploaded to its social media pages. 

Residents and non-residents of Davao Oriental may register to get their QR Codes. These include persons under 15 years old and above 65 years old and also those who are residents of the Davao Oriental but are currently outside the province. 

Non-residents like tourists may also register with the provincial government. This is because authorities at quarantine checkpoints at provincial borders will start to require QR Codes for travellers starting next month. 

Following this announcement, the provincial government said it will release an executive order mandating owners of business establishments, as well as public and private offices to participate in the QR Code system. These establishments must be able to set up their own QR code scanning applications to be provided by the province. Authorities were quick to add that all data gathered through the programme shall be subject to and covered by the Data Privacy Act of 2012. 

A similar undertaking was launched recently by another local government unit in the Philippines. As reported by OpenGov Asia, the Quezon City government announced that residents of the locality shall be entitled to city identification (ID) cards containing necessary information that shall be integrated into the city’s existing database. These IDs, while initially intended to be used for all upcoming projects and social assistance programmes of the city, shall also be utilised in determining the citizens that shall be prioritised once the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines begins. 

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