Baguio City Mayor Magalong now also 'contact tracing czar'
File photo shows Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong.
The STAR/Mong Pintolo
Baguio City Mayor Magalong now also 'contact tracing czar'
Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - July 13, 2020 - 2:18pm

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Monday announced that Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong has been appointed as the country's new contact tracing czar.

"We will radically change the structure of the contact tracing system...we will have interviewers, it is a partnership between health workers and law enforcement investigators," Magalong said in a mix of English and Filipino during Monday's Palace briefing.

Magalong, former chief of the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, has been lauded for spearheading an enhanced contact tracing method in Baguio City.

The mayor previously said that the city's contact tracing method has two major components: a cognitive investigative scheme, and a COVID-19 e-system which is comprised of a data collection tool, a geographical information system (GIS) platform, and analytical tool.

On Monday, he emphasized the need for skills training for contact tracers and the utilization of the e-system on a national scale.

Magalong's new designation comes on the heels of a consistent surge in COVID-19 cases in the country, as well as widespread and repeated calls for mass testing and more efficient contact tracing.

READ: Government ‘quite late’ in implementing contact tracing infra — Leachon | WHO sounds alarm over 'slow' contact tracing efforts in the Philippines 

The Department of the Interior and Local Government last Friday said that it was still waiting on the Department of Budget and Management to release funds for the hiring of more contact tracers in the country.

"If it were up to us, we would have hired the additional contact tracers yesterday, we all know how valuable contact tracing teams are right now," DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, department spokesperson, said in Filipino.

He added that there are around 50,000 contact tracers in the country, and the DILG is hoping to start hiring around 50,000 more by the end of the month.

READ: Funds for hiring additional contact tracers not yet released — DILG

As the government maintains its singular focus on reopening the economy, the country has logged a consistent surge in COVID-19 cases, with Sunday's tally — which was belatedly released on Monday morning — logging another 2,124 infections that put the national caseload at over 56,000 and the death toll at 1,534.

A researcher from the University of the Philippines last week amended his research group's projection of 60,000 cases in the country by the end of July, bumping up the figure to 65,000 following spikes in daily tallies which saw a new all-time high of 2,434.

However, considering the current rate of daily infections, the country may see the tally surpass even the amended predictions of the UP OCTA Research group, with over three weeks left before the month is out.

READ: COVID-19 cases may breach 65,000 by end of July, 100,000 by end of August — UP researcher

BENJAMIN MAGALONG CONTACT TRACING COVID-19 NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
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