By Chito Chavez
Some 82,537 contact tracers are needed to beef up the local contact tracing teams (CTTs) of the local government units (LGUs) as the country’s fight against COVID-19 intensifies, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said on Monday.
“While there is a need to hire 80,000 CTs, we just proposed to the IATF the hiring of only 50,000 since the LGU continues to increase the number of their CTs and there are also volunteers from the private sector,” Año added.
DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año said the CTTs will take charge of tracking down the close contacts of the confirmed COVID-19 patients as the national government aims to flatten the curve and prevent the spread of the virus in the country.
“Given that the there is still no vaccine or cure to COVID-19, the government needs to train and hire contact tracers who will break the chains of transmission of COVID-19 by identifying those who may have been exposed to the virus and monitoring them daily for 14 days,” said Año.
Año said that the DILG has already submitted a proposal to the Interagency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-MEID) for the hiring and training of contact tracers “as part of the government’s expanded contact tracing efforts to effectively manage the COVID-19 pandemic’’.
“We are waiting for the approval of the IATF-MEID so that our LGUs can start hiring and training contact tracers in their localities. We need to be one step ahead and ready with the required number of contact tracers rather than be caught off guard when the need for contact tracers arises in case of a second wave,” he added.
Under the DILG’s proposal to the IATF-MEID, the following are the qualifications of contact tracers: preferably graduates of Bachelor’s Degree on Allied Medical Courses, other health-related courses, or Criminology.
Second priority may be given to those applicants who have completed at least two years of college education in medical or criminology-related courses.
Año said the applicants shall preferably have one-year relevant experience and four hours relevant training.
At present, Año said “there are 52,463 contact tracers nationwide who are part of 3,347 local contact tracing teams’’.
“Per WHO (World Health Organization), the ideal contact tracer to population ratio is 1:800 so to fully cover 108-million Filipinos, we actually need a total of 135,000 contact tracers,” he noted.
He said that the DILG expects the approval of its proposal soon and expects to start hiring the additional contact tracers by next month.
The DILG is the lead agency in contact tracing pursuant to IATF Resolution No. 25.
On April 24, 2020, the DILG issued memorandum circular 2020-077 directing LGUs to establish LGU Task Force against COVID-19, including the Contact Tracing Team.
Over 87,000 contacts traced
DILG Undersecretary for Peace and Order Bernardo Florece Jr. said that a total of 87,092 out of 94,534 contacts (92.13 percent) have already been traced as of June 15 by local CCTs nationwide.
“It is contact tracers who advise the general contacts whether they need to immediately undergo home quarantine or be placed in isolation facilities,” Florece explained.
Florece noted that the contact tracers are tasked to monitor both symptomatic and asymptomatic close contacts on a daily basis for 14 days from the last point of exposure.
He added that those tested positive on COVID-19 either through rapid test or PCR tests are referred to hospital facilities for proper treatment.
COVID-19 enhanced contact tracing efforts is a joint effort of the Department of Health (DOH), DILG, Philippine National Police (PNP), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP).
Florece said that the data gathered during the contact tracing initiatives will be shared among these parties for proper COVID-19 testing and treatment with due regard to RA 10173 or the Data Privacy Act of 2012.