How is contact tracing done?


This is my personal experience as a COVID-19 patient.

Today is the twelfth day of my home quarantine since I experienced symptoms of the coronavirus on August 20. Cough and sore throat on the first few days, lost sense of smell and taste on the evening of the third day. I decided to have an online consultation with one of our provincial doctors here in Malolos afternoon of August 22 and I was given meds for cough and colds. I felt the symptoms aggravated the next day and when I told my doctor I already lost my sense of smell and taste, he advised for a swab test. I immediately told our unit head that I’m undergoing the procedure so she could tell HR for the contact tracing and all the needed protocols.

In a few hours, HR was on the phone with me to tell me to expect a call from our office clinic triage for consultation and monitoring. The triage nurses and doctors called me in a few hours for the usual inquiries and guidelines.
On Aug. 24, I went to the Sacred Heart Malolos PCR Testing Center for my swab test and was given a claim stub which stated I’d get the results on Aug. 28, between 1 to 5 pm.

Around 11 am of Aug. 28, my phone rang with an unknown number and the person on the other line turned out to be a representative of the DOH.

Photo taken before the author’s swab test

“Hi ma’am Elizabeth Panelo, ako po si Nurse Juni ng DOH. Since positive po ang resulta ng inyong swab test…” Hindi ko na naintindihan ang mga sumunod nyang sinabi. With the symptoms I had, I expected a positive result but, it’s true what they say, we still get shookt when we’re told what we thought we already knew.

(“Hi, ma’am Elizabeth Panelo. This is Nurse Juni of the Department of Health. Since you tested positive in your swab test…” I did not understand what he said next.)

But Nurse Juni was very cordial and ask for apologies when he realized he was the first one to tell me the results of my swab test. Turned out the result has been reported to their office a day before and he expected that the BHW in our area had talked to me and oriented me with quarantine guidelines. But no.

I started asking Nurse Juni on how they will go about the contact tracing because my hubby is still with me at home (the kids have been sent to my ate’s place since the first day of my quarantine). Nurse Juni said the hubby need not undergo a swab test since he had no symptoms and the LGU shall not shoulder expenses if this was the case. But if we wanted to make sure, he may proceed to a private swab testing center. Dahil sigurista tayo (because we wanted to be sure), hubby immediately got himself tested on the same day (good thing HMO covers such cases).

When hubby arrived at the testing center with my test results on hand, the information officer at the lobby told him he cannot be tested because he had no symptoms. ‘Pero kung gusto nyo po talaga magpa-test, kunyari na lang na may ubo kayo,’  (But if you really want to be tested, just put there that you have cough) hubby was supposedly told. So, nilagay nila sa info sheet na may ubo kasi baka daw i-check ni doc (So, he wrote that he has cough in the info sheet just in case the doctor asks).

I waited three days before our BHW could finally reach me and all she said was for me to text her my and my hubby’s temperature everyday. ‘Kahit po hindi ako sumagot ha, basta i-text nyo sa akin.’ (Hoy, nag-text ako everyday at tumupad sya sa pangako, hindi talaga sya sumagot kahit minsan.)

(Just text me even if I don’t reply. And I did send text messages everyday. She was true to her word; she never replied.)

I also asked when my quarantine would be over and when I should schedule a re-swab before I can report back for work. Dito na kami nagkagulo (This was where things got nasty).

‘Since ngayon lang ako makakapag-monitor sa inyo, ngayon po (Aug. 30) ang day 1 ng quarantine ninyo.’ (Today is your first day of quarantine because this is the first time I am monitoring you)

No gurl, your not telling this to me.

Matapos ko makipagtalo, I hung up the phone and called up Nurse Juni who clarified that my first day was on the day I was swabbed. Okay, malinaw. Last day is on Sept. 7 but I still need to get clearance from the RHU before I can report back to work.

How do I go to the RHU? Will the barangay provide a ride? Will I have an escort from the LGU or whatever?

Wala. Wala. Wala. (None)

Nobody from the government agencies asked about other family members, my officemates (it was the office triage which did this), my friends and contacts. Wala. I can actually go to SnR for a grocery run or to Makati Med for a check up without getting noticed. I can even have a manyanita and nobody would care.

So, how does this contact tracing really happen? In my case, wala (none). It didn’t happen. I hope this is an isolated case but if this is the norm in most cases, gets ko yung sinasabi ng matanda na we just wait for a vaccine. For the meantime, use gasoline to clean your face masks but do not add fuel to the fire.

P.S. I’m doing good with no more symptoms except that I still have no sense of smell and taste. Hubby’s swab test result was negative. Much love to those sliding my DMs for support. Mwah. (

Panelo is the secretary general of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines. The former Bulatlat journalist now works for ABS-CBN, where she is at the fore in the fight for workers’ rights and franchise renewal of the media giant.

This piece was first posted in Panelo’s Facebook account on Sept. 1, 2020. Bulatlat sought her approval to have this piece reposted as Bulatlat’s First Person entry.

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