February 29, 2024

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Davao City government uses QR codes as part of contact tracing efforts

When the COVID-19 virus set in, governments were quick to adopt safety restrictions and new modes of governance. The priority now is to boost healthcare but at the same time, to continue running their economies through digitalisation of work processes and even in contact tracing efforts. 

Health protocols and safety restrictions were implemented in the Philippines early last year in response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The government adopted an enhanced community quarantine over several provinces and metropolitan areas in the country, as the healthcare sector continues to battle a seemingly endless influx of patients afflicted by the deadly virus. 

The Philippine government has adopted technology, not just in implementing an e-governance framework, but also to streamline current healthcare processes. In an earlier report, OpenGov Asia had written about how the local government of Davao Oriental is poised to adopt the Davao Oriental Digital Contact Tracing System (DAVOR-DCTS). This system shall require residents, non-residents and tourists to present their Quick Response or QR Codes when they are transacting with public and private establishments. 

A similar initiative has been rolled out in Davao City. Under the SafeDavaoQR (DQR) system, the City’s official contact tracing programme, the goal is to manage the spread of COVID-19 through the use of QR Codes. In a statement, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio urged residents to prepare for the slated activation of such QR Codes. 

Through these codes, residents will be able to receive relevant, system-generated information through SMS regarding contact tracing data and protocols. It lets recipients know if they are suspected of having contact with persons carrying the virus.  

The Mayor explained that the system prods recipients of the message to monitor themselves for possible symptoms. If they have the symptoms, they may get in touch with city health authorities through hotline numbers stated in the text message. 

She was quick to dispel public fear and apprehension and noted that residents must not be too bothered when they receive these texts. The Mayor said: “do not panic, the message only asks the person to monitor one’s health and to know the course of action whenever there are changes to one’s body and contact numbers to coordinate with health authorities within the 14-day duration.” This 14-day period, she further explained, is the time of incubation of the virus in the body of patients. 

The text message will be in both English and the Visayan dialect to cater. The city government clarified that the SMS will only be sent once and that they will be making a formal announcement before the programme is fully implemented. 

The registration for the DQR was held last year. In a report, the city government said that they have deployed 1,500 personnel to help in the rollout of the city’s contact tracing system. 

Under Section 4 of Executive Order No. 60, which carries the implementing rules for the DQR, individuals below 18 years old and those older than 65 are entitled to receive a QR code to indicate that they are part of the sector more vulnerable to catching the COVID-19 virus. This indicator serves as a warning to authorities in checkpoints, offices and establishments. 

After mentioning the government’s contact tracing efforts, the Davao City mayor also unveiled that a new laboratory donated by a private firm already received a permit to operate at the Davao International Airport. The lab was reported to have the capacity for 94 to 300 COVID-19 testing per day. However, one of the challenges they face is the high number of passengers slated to receive the tests. The mayor stated that: “free real-time polymerase-chain-reaction swab tests at the airport continue to be suspended because of the specimens from the passengers at the airport number from 800 to 1,000 a day.” 

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