Cebu City cops enlist friendly neighborhood 'tsismosas' as contact tracers

The friendly neighborhood tsimosa or nosy person will have an "important role" in contact-tracing coronavirus cases in Cebu City, said the Central Visayas regional police on Tuesday, July 21.

Brigadier General Albert Ferro, Central Visayas police chief, fondly dubbed them the ‘tsimosa brigade.’

“I heard last night what you call this mga tsismosa (nosy) brigade,” Ferro was quoted in SunStar Superbalita. He said the idea came from a practice implemented in Bulacan province.

"In Bulacan, they said the tsimosas were helping with the contact tracing, instead of just gossiping they could be helpful,” Ferro said.

There are at least 134 contact tracing teams active in the city now. They are comprised of police officers, firefighters and other health workers.

The tsimosas would be tapped to augment the teams, looking for unreported symptomatic and asymptomatic cases in the city.

Cebu City currently is the city with the highest caseload of infections in the country at 8,302. At least 4,583 have recovered, leaving 3,304 active cases here.

Ferro told the Cebu Daily News though he used the term tsimosa, he really meant to encourage the community to volunteer in the contact training effort.

“As what I have said in several pronouncements, it is not only the job or responsibility of the police, military, health workers, and the government. This is a responsibility of all Filipino citizens,” Ferro said.

Last June, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) said the country already has around 52,463 contact tracers hired by national and local governments, as well as volunteers from the private sector.

But following the 1:800 ratio of the World Health Organization, the Philippines needs a total of 135,000 contact tracers to meet global standard.

General Archie Gamboa, director of the Philippine National Police, got flak for a statement on July 16 comparing looking for asymptomatic or mild cases under home quarantine to “looking for criminals.”

“It requires cognitive interview or cognitive investigation. The purpose of this is like you’re hunting criminals and when you’ve found the criminal and you also look for who their co-conspirators are, and these are the skills of the investigators in the PNP. They’re used to that kind of thing,” Gamboa said.

This raised concerns over privacy rights of individuals who were worried that the police would remove people from their homes if accused of being positive for coronavirus.

The tsimosa brigade, however, would be for general contact tracing and not necessarily for those without symptoms.

The number of cases here has been on a downward trend since the national coronavirus inter-agency task force ordered Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to step in late June.

OCTA Research said that Cebu’s lockdown efforts have already started to contain the surge and was “on the way to flattening the epidemic curve.” But they recommended the continuation of lockdown measures to “sustain the gains already achieved.”

Cimatu said he believed Cebu City would be ready for general community quarantine (GCQ) by the end of July

Total coronavirus cases in the Philippines stood at 72,269 as of Wednesday, July 22. The number of deaths totalled 1,843, while recoveries was at 23,623. – Rappler.com

Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers Cebu and the Visayas for Rappler. He covers all news in the region, but is particularly interested in people stories, development issues and local policy making.

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