The Quezon City government has observed an increase in the number of youths infected with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) due to close contact with positive adults in households as indicated by data from its artificial intelligence (AI)-based platform.

The increase was mentioned during the presentation of the accomplishment report on BantAI COVID, a monitoring and contact tracing platform it developed in partnership with the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) and the Vireo Loadworks Inc.

Quezon City Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Unit (CESU) head Dr. Rolly Cruz said almost 8,000 patients have been enrolled as of last count since the platform’s implementation on July 29, 2020.

“Sa nasabing bilang, napansin natin na may naitalang 920 close contacts na nasa edad 0 hanggang 10 taon habang nasa 995 naman ang itinuturing na adolescent o nasa pagitan ng 11 hanggang 18 anyos,” Cruz said.

He added the data supported the theory that further transmission of COVID-19 occurs within the households of patients.

“The children and adolescents are currently confined within their homes due to the quarantine and their exposure to the virus is due to the adults,” Cruz said, noting that BantAI COVID has 5,186 enrolled patients between 19 tO 59 years old.

He also mentioned that around 895 senior citizens are also in danger of acquiring other diseases after being infected with the virus.

“This information shows the need to practice minimum health standards even at home to counter the spread of the virus within the household,” Cruz pointed out.

With the help of BantAI COVID, Mayor Joy Belmonte said the city government can craft new policies and strategies to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 within the communities.

“Malaking tulong ang mga impormasyon mula sa BantAI COVID upang maiakma natin ang mga plano at programa sa kasalukuyang sitwasyon,” said Belmonte.

“Bukod pa rito, mapapaigting pa natin ang pagsusulong ng mga kailangang pag-iingat, tulad ng pagsusuot ng face mask sa lahat ng panahon at ngayon face shield sa mga workplace, palengke, public transport at commercial establishments,” she added.

BantAI COVID is an SMS platform that utilizes AI and text messaging though mobile phones to enhance contact tracing and daily monitoring of symptoms for all in-home quarantined suspected and probable COVID-19 cases.

Using BantAI COVID’s data analytics, the local government is provided with a real-time picture of the pandemic situation, enabling them to maximize resource allocation and decisions.

Through the system, enrollees receive regular text messages reminding them of social distancing, hand washing and personal protection. The platform also has an interactive question and answer function, eliminating the need for face-to-face interviews with close contacts.