DOH: LGUs are 'main implementers' of contact tracing efforts

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DOH: LGUs are 'main implementers' of contact tracing efforts
In this file photo taken on March 15, 2020 members of the police and the army randomly inspect vehicles at a check point coming from North Luzon Express way in Manila during the implementation of measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, the new coronavirus.
AFP / Maria Tan

MANILA, Philippines — The interior department and local government units are responsible for contact tracing efforts, the Department of Health said Wednesday days after it announced the agency currently has no team meant to do contact tracing.

In an advisory Monday, the DOH warned about fake contact tracers posing as department personnel as it “does not have a contact tracing team,” leaving the public alarmed.

When the country had few cases in March, the DOH led contact tracing. But the LGUs are now the “main actors and implementers” of contact tracing efforts, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire explained.

IATF Resolution 25 states that “the Department of the Interior and Local Government, in coordination with local government units, shall hereafter lead the contact-tracing efforts of the government.”

The DILG issued Memorandum Circular 2020-077 on April 4 directing LGUs to establish LGU Task Force against COVID-19, including contact tracing teams.

“Although ang mga contact tracing teams sa baba syempre mga health officers din and barangay health workers na sasamahan minsan ng mga local government officials like PNP and Barangay Health Emergency Response Team. But definitely, DOH, we do not have any contact tracing teams,” Vergeire said in a briefing.

But she said the department forms adhoc contact tracing teams.

“Especially when there are cases na kailangan imbestigahan in close institution magpapadala kami, we will do investigation and that is surveillance. But not really magkaroon kami ng permanent contact tracing teams,” Vergeire said.

The health official also said it is the department’s duty to provide guidelines and standards for contact tracing efforts.

Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong earlier said less than 1% of 600 local government units have good systems in place for contact tracing. 

The DILG has so far hired over 73,000 contact tracers. In June, the government targeted to hire some 82,573 contact tracers to augment the number of contact tracers, which stood at 52,463 at the time.

The World Health Organization set the ideal ratio of one contact tracer for every 800 people.

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.

The country has so far reported 139,538 coronavirus cases, with 2,312 deaths.

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