Philippine gov't hires 10,136 more contact tracers

The Philippine government hired an additional 10,136 individuals who will serve full-time as contact tracers throughout the country, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said on Monday, October 5. 

During a Department of Health forum where Malaya guested, the DILG spokesperson said the new hires make up the first batch of additional contact tracers under the Bayanihan to Recover as One (Bayanihan 2) law, which will eventually reach 50,000.

Malaya said the 10,136 new hires have already completed training and will be deployed sometime within the week. 

The DILG is also processing at least 55,000 more applications.

Why does this matter?

The Philippines’ contact tracing program is still below standards, leaving a gap in the central test-trace-treat program experts are advocating for to get the coronavirus pandemic under control. 

In June, the DILG said it had 52,000 contract tracers but that it still needed 83,000 more to be considered properly equipped to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The 83,000 figure is based on the 1:800 ratio of the World Health Organization (WHO), which saw the Philippines needing a total of 135,000 contact tracers to meet the standard.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año earlier said the 50,000 addition under Bayanihan 2 would suffice instead of 83,000, as local governments and volunteers continue to raise the total number of tracers nationwide.

Aside from dedicated tracers, the government has also been filling the gap by having police, Bureau of Fire Protection personnel, and barangay health workers double as contact tracers.

Continuous hiring

Aside from standards set by the WHO, Malaya said the government is also working to meet tracing czar Benjamin Magalong's target of 37 close contacts traced per confirmed case. Magalong, the mayor of Baguio City, earlier urged his fellow local officials to closely monitor surveillance efforts.

Malaya said the DILG intends to reach Magalong's target with the continuous hiring of at least 50,000 full-time contact tracers. 

To facilitate this, the DILG has relaxed documentary requirements by allowing applicants to submit police clearances when National Bureau of Investigation clearances are unavailable, or certifications of graduation instead of diplomas.

Once hired, contact tracers are supervised by local government units, said Malaya. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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