Belmonte: DILG should deploy more contact tracers to help LGUs meet gov’t standard

Dwight de Leon
Belmonte: DILG should deploy more contact tracers to help LGUs meet gov’t standard

TRAINING. Hundreds attend a contact tracing seminar by the DILG-CALABARZON on September 25, 2020.

Rappler File Photo

Going by the DILG's standard for contact tracing, Quezon City would need more than 3,700 contact tracers which the city government cannot afford, says Mayor Joy Belmonte

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) should spare enough personnel to local government units, especially those with large populations like Quezon City, if it wants all LGUs to meet the government agency’s standard for effective contact tracing.

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte said this in a virtual briefing on Wednesday, March 17, in response to DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya’s statement on the low contact tracing ratio of LGUs.

Belmonte quipped that based on the DILG’s standard, an LGU the size of Quezon City would need 2,000 to 3,000 more contact tracers, which the city government cannot afford.

Nakikiusap tayo kay Jonathan Malaya, since ganyan ang tingin niya sa aming mga LGUs, baka bigyan niya pa kami ng contact tracers, siguro dagdagan niya ng 2,000 or 3,000. Para masabing compliant kami sa napakahigpit na criteria for an effective LGU contact tracing,” she said in jest.

(Since this is your assessment of [the contact tracing efforts] of LGUs, we appeal to Jonathan Malaya to provide us with an additional 2,000 or 3,000 contact tracers so that we can be deemed compliant with the very stringent criteria for an effective LGU contact tracing.)

On Monday, March 15, Malaya called on LGUs to do better in their contact tracing program since they are in charge of this.

Quezon City’s close contact ratio from March 16 to 13 is 7.99, down from 11.4 in the week of February 27 to March 16.

Belmonte said this is due to the increase in COVID-19 cases that need to be subjected to contact tracing.

She said the lack of personnel really hampered their contact-tracing program.

“If the criteria, as the DILG says, of a good contact tracing team, is 1 for every 800, talagang never papasa po diyan ang Quezon City dahil (Quezon City will not be able to meet that because) that would require us to have more than 3,700 contact tracers, something that we cannot afford,” Belmonte said.

Quezon City, the most populous city in the Philippines with some 3 million people, has around 1,000 contact tracers – half from the local government, and the rest from the DILG.

Belmonte said she was counting on the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority to fulfill its promise to send more contact tracers to LGUs in Metro Manila. She added that the DILG had made the same pledge.

Necessary business closures

Quezon City recorded 411 new COVID-19 cases from March 9 to 15, nearly double the 218 fresh infections logged during the week of March 2 to 8.

The spike in infections prompted the local government to order over the two-week closure of gyms and spas, citing the high level of risk of COVID-19 transmissions in those establishments.

Belmonte said that after two weeks, Quezon city will review to check if the businesses can reopen.

The Quezon City mayor, however, expressed caution about imposing further COVID-19 restrictions, such as prohibiting dine-in operations in restaurants.

Ito ngang pagsara ng gyms at spas, medyo nahirapan na nga tayong ipaglaban ito. Ano pa kaya kung gumawa tayo ng desisyon na ipasara ang ibang establisyemento na wala namang basbas ng IATF o ng atin pong kapwa mayors sa National Capital Region,” she said.

(We had a hard time fighting for the closure of gyms and spas, what more other establishments without the blessing of the IATF or our fellow mayors from the National Capital Region?) –

Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers local government units and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.