Mass shortage: Philippines still lacks 83,000 contact tracers

Rambo Talabong

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Mass shortage: Philippines still lacks 83,000 contact tracers
The Philippines currently has around 52,000 contact tracers in its fight against the coronavirus. Ideally, it should have 135,000.

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines still needs around 83,000 contact tracers to be considered properly equipped to detect the spread of the coronavirus, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said on Thursday, June 18.

In a statement, the DILG said the country already has around 52,463 contact tracers hired by national and local governments, as well as volunteers from the private sector.

But following the 1:800 ratio of the World Health Organization, the Philippines needs a total of 135,000 contact tracers to meet the standard.

How many more will be hired? With the shortage, the DILG recommended that the government hire over 50,000 contact tracers.

Año said the 50,000 addition would suffice instead of 83,000, as local governments and volunteers continue to raise the total number of tracers nationwide.

“We just proposed to the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) the hiring of only 50,000,” Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said.

The DILG did not disclose yet how the government will source the money to fund the tracers and when the hiring will begin.

Why does this matter? Contact tracers hold the job of retracing the steps of coronavirus cases in order to have them and the people they interacted with placed under quarantine.

Knowing where the virus has spread is crucial knowledge for national and local governments so that they can decide on policies to respond to the pandemic, which includes high-stakes decisions like imposing lockdowns and building quarantine facilities.

How can one get hired? Not anyone can be a contact tracer.

Under the DILG’s recommendation, contact tracers should have the following qualifications, with corresponding prioritization for hiring:

  • First priority: Applicants with a bachelor’s degree related to health-related courses or criminology
  • Second priority: Applicants who finished two years of schooling under health-related courses or criminology-related courses


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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.