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DILG urged to rehire contact tracers

THE chairman of the House committee on ways and means has requested the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to renew the contracts of service of contact tracers who were hired last year but whose terms have expired last December 31, 2020.

Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, panel chairman, said reinstating the tracers is crucial now that the country has verified a report of the new and more infectious strain of coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19).

“January is the window of opportunity to prevent a new wave of COVID-19 infections. The economy simply cannot afford another lockdown, and we cannot afford to risk the lives of health care workers now that we have not yet vaccinated them in mass,” Salceda said.

“The reason why Congress granted emergency powers to the different departments is so that these issues on procurement and cash do not happen,” Salceda added. “The extension of the Bayanihan II and 2020 budget should remedy this concern.”

Before 2020 ended, Salceda called on the government to vaccinate health care workers by January to protect them from a possible new wave of infections. Salceda says that while “waves of infection are inevitable; the size of the waves determines our response. So, if we can flatten the next wave by preventing community transmission of the new variant of COVID-19, and by expanding health care capacity to treat and isolate, we can avoid having to lock the economy down.”

Salceda also filed House Bill (HB) 8285, or the Bayanihan sa Bakuna Act, which would expedite vaccine procurement, distribution, and administration.

It also allows the government to authorize vaccines which have already been tested and administered successfully on enough Filipinos abroad, he said.

Salceda also said that his risk science team has noticed an increase in the country’s COVID-19 infectivity rate recently.

“We’re at the 1.3 levels again. That means every ten people that get infected are able to infect 13 other persons. We want to keep the rate below 1, over and under by 10%, which it was for the entire last quarter of 2020,” Salceda explained.

“So, there are indications that the holidays caused an uptick in infections. My fear is our lack of contact tracers may be understating the figure,” Salceda added.

“I have no doubt that the worst is over, both for the economy and for health in the country. But we have to remain alert and strategic. I call on the DILG to reinstate those contracts immediately. If there are problems, especially with cash, let Congress and the country’s leaders know, so we can solve them. We should not cut back on the essentials,” Salceda said.

“Without contact tracers to prevent community transmission of the new variant, we will be fighting the next wave with our hands tied,” Salceda added.

Publication Source :    People's Tonight