IATF to intensify contact tracing at entry ports
Under Resolution No. 53 dated July 9, the IATF approved the recommendations of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, led by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and the Department of Transportation (DOTr), to hire more civilians for contact tracing and swabbing at ports of entry.
Michael Varcas/File
IATF to intensify contact tracing at entry ports
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - July 11, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — With almost 10,000 new cases reported in the past week, the government is intensifying its surveillance and contact tracing efforts as well as swabbing – via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing – for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) at all ports of entry.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) approved Resolution No. 53 a few days after it also allowed the gradual reopening of the economy and the resumption of domestic and international flights  to allow travel of Filipinos with observance of health protocols and travel guidelines.

Under Resolution No. 53 dated July 9, the IATF approved the recommendations of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, led by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and the Department of Transportation (DOTr), to hire more civilians for contact tracing and swabbing at ports of entry.

The move is aimed at preventing the community transmission of the virus, as the government balances the need to reopen the economy and maintain public safety.

The IATF designated Subic and other ports as hubs for international crew changes, with strict adherence to established health protocols and guidelines.

The body also allowed the establishment of one-stop shops under the DOTr for the uniform processing of arrivals in all gateways.

“Due to the developments in the situation of the COVID-19 health event in the country, further amendments are required to further streamline the government’s response to the pandemic,” the IATF said in the resolution.

The IATF also mandated that all inbound flight crew should observe the protocols set by the International Civil Aviation Organizations.

“The Department of Transportation, including its attached agencies such as the Civil Aeronautics Board and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, is hereby directed to issue necessary guidelines, specifying that inbound flight crew must remain in their accommodation establishments upon arrival to avoid transmission,” it added.

According to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), there is still no budget for the mass hiring of at least 50,000 contact tracers.

DILG spokesman Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said that while the department was designated to lead the hiring of contact tracers, it has yet to receive any funds from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Still, Malaya said they hope to start the hiring process before the end of the month.

“We still do not have the funds. We hope to hire before the end of the month. God willing the DILG would receive the funds,” he said in Filipino and English at a Laging Handa press briefing.

The DILG official said they have already submitted a budget proposal and worker compensation menu to the DBM, but there is no official communication from them yet.

Malaya said that they will prioritize hiring applicants who are graduates of medical science or criminology courses. Romina Cabrera

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