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DILG scrambles to find P5-7 billion to hire contact tracers

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
DILG scrambles to find P5-7 billion to hire contact tracers
MRT commuters line up to show their vaccination card at MRT-3 North Ave. station on Aug. 3, 2021. Vaccinated train commuters may now avail themselves of free rides in the Light Rail Transit 2, Manila Metro Rail Transit 3 and Philippine National Railways starting August 3 until the end of lockdown in Metro Manila.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of the Interior and Local Government is trying to find P5 billion to P7 billion to rehire and hire more contact tracers following the expiration of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2.

“Paubos na po ang budget ng additional contact tracers na ating ginamitan po para makapag-hire,” Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing told the House health panel on Wednesday.

(Our budget to hire additional contact tracers is about to be depleted.)

Densing said Interior Secretary Eduardo Año is speaking with the Department of Budget and Management for additional funding so that they would be able to renew the contracts of existing contact tracers until December and more than triple the current number of contact tracers to 50,000.

The DILG was able to hire 50,000 tracers last year thanks to Bayanihan 2, but was only able to extend the contracts of 30% of them.

To supplement the still absent funding from the national government, Densing urged local governments to use their local development fund for COVID-19 response, specifically for the hiring of contact tracers.

“This is now the main issue and this is a big problem that’s being faced by our contact tracing system,” contact tracing czar and Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong said. “Wala pa pong pondo para doon sa renewal ng ating contact tracers (We still do not have funding for the rehiring of our contact tracers.)”

“This is something very critical po because of the threat of the Delta variant,” Magalong continued.

‘Significant’ improvement in tracing

Magalong said that the Philippines’ contact tracing has “significantly improved,” with the country having maintained for almost a month a contact tracing ratio of 1:7, or seven close contacts for every person identified to be infected with the coronavirus.

This is a leap from Magalong’s last report in March, which showed that the national contact tracing ratio was 1:3.

While contact tracing is better now, it is still far from the target ratio set by the government, even if this has already been lowered to 1:15 from 1:37 to “adapt to the operating environment.”

Magalong explained that the goal of tracing 37 close contacts of a patient infected with the coronavirus was set last year when cases were still relatively low, but this has changed with recent surges in cases.

“With all these surges in cases, nabaligtad na po ‘yong situation (the situation has flipped.) Contact tracers are handling over a dozen cases every day, so they are overwhelmed with that number of cases,” he said.

BENJAMIN MAGALONG CONTACT TRACING DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT
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