Philippines still needs over 82,000 contact tracers
People walk through a disinfection channel as a preventative measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus at the entrance to the city hall in Manila on June 15, 2020.
AFP/Ted Aljibe
Philippines still needs over 82,000 contact tracers
Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - June 18, 2020 - 3:58pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines still needs more than 82,000 contact tracers to boost the country’s effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the Department of the Interior and Local Government said Thursday.

Contact tracers track down those who have recently been in close contact with a person infected with COVID-19—a key strategy that can further reduce the spread of infection, if done successfully.

Currently, there are 52,463 contact tracers nationwide. The country still needs to train and hire some 82,537 individuals to meet the ideal ratio set by the World Health Organization of one contact tracer for every 800 people.

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said his agency has submitted a proposal to the government’s inter-agency task force on COVID-19 response for the hiring of only 50,000 contact tracers “since the LGU continues to increase the number of their contact tracers and there are also volunteers from the private sector.”

“We need to be one step ahead and ready with the required number of contact tracers rather than be caught off guard when the need for contact tracers arises in the second wave,” Año said.

Under DILG’s recommendation, applicants with a bachelor’s degree on allied medical courses, other health-related courses or criminology will be prioritized first for hiring. Second priority may be given to applicants who have finished at least two years of college education in medical or criminology-related courses.

According to the United States’ Center for Disease Control, prompt investigation, isolation and monitoring of persons diagnosed with COVID-19 “can effectively break the chain of disease transmission and prevent further spread of the virus.”

Last month, Dr. Socorro Escalante, WHO acting representative to the Philippines, said the government’s slow contact tracing efforts were hampering the country’s fight against COVID-19.

DILG said 87,092 out of 94,534 contacts have already been traced by local contact tracing teams nationwide as of June 15.

The Philippines has so far reported 27,238 coronavirus cases, with 1,108 deaths.

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