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Fears on rehiring of contact tracers allayed

THE Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Monday dismissed apprehensions that the re-employment of only 15,000 contact tracers will weaken the Philippines’ contact tracing capacity which remains to be strong, ten months since the start of the pandemic.

DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan E. Malaya said the existing number of contact tracers (CTs) currently stands at 255,854 nationwide which is more than sufficient for the country’s needs. “We already have 29,611 contact tracing teams which is composed of 255,854 contact tracers nationwide. Even without the DILG hiring, we already have sufficient number of contact tracers.

Malaya added that the DILG rehiring only seeks to augment the current number of CTs to meet Department of Health (DOH) standards of 1:800 contact tracer to population ratio. “With our number of CTs, we have exceeded DOH standard. Per the DOH, the ideal contact tracer to population ratio is 1:800 so to fully cover 108 million Filipinos, we actually need a total of 135,000 contact tracers only,

So wala po tayong dapat ipanangamba. Bukod pa sa 15k CTs na irerehire natin, mayroon nang nakadeploy na halos more than 200,000 CTs sa buong bansa na tututok sa mga COVID-19 cases sa mga lokalidad,” Malaya said.

In fact, he said, with our current contact tracing capacity, a total of 368,255 confirmed COVID-19 cases were traced aside from the more than two million close contacts who were traced and assessed as of January 16, 2021.

Our CTs have been doing an excellent job in tracking down and monitoring COVID-19 cases and their close contacts and we expect it to remain that way, especially with the rehiring of 15k CTs. Our increased CT capacity was the game-changer that allowed us to cut the transmission in many communities across the country,” Malaya said.

At present, there are 29,611 CT teams nationwide. Each CTT is composed of the Municipal/City Health Officer with members from the Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection, Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTS), volunteers from Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and the augmentation CTs from the DILG.

The said CTTs also paved the way to testing 1,143,462 close contacts using the Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) yielding 173,337 positive cases while 204,878 were tested using Rapid Diagnostic Test yielding 5,445 igM only positive results. More than 1.2-million close contacts also completed the required quarantine period.

The DILG will utilize P1.4-billion from the unreleased balance from RA 11519 or the extension of the validity of appropriations under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act that will supplement the P500-million that has been allocated for the hiring of CTs in the 2021 General Appropriations Act.

Malaya also confirmed that the National Capital Region (2,381), Region III (1,504) and Region VII (1,417) top the list of regions which will rehire the most number of CTs this year based on the number of active cases in a particular region.