Malacañang said it will tap the Philippine National Police (PNP) in tracing those who have been in contact with COVID-19 patients as the government intensifies its contact-tracing efforts.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that 150,000 tracers are needed to look for those who were in contact with COVID-19 patients.
In an interview with CNN Philippines, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said there is an urgent need to have more tracers but said there was a way to save money while doing it.
“We need that as soon as possible but learning from the experience of Baguio, Mayor [Benjamin] Magalong did not have to recruit additional personnel. He’s actually using the PNP for contact tracing, which is something that we’ll also implement here,” he said.
“The police, because they are already employed by the government, can be tapped to do the same chore without the additional remuneration. That has been the experience of Baguio so if you ask Mayor Magalong, there shouldn’t be additional costs to contact tracing,” he added.
Roque said the PNP is already training police officers who will act as contact tracers. However, he said the number of police officers who will do the task is still uncertain.
“It really depends on how many they can detail for this purpose. I’m not sure of the figures but the experience of Baguio is he (Mayor Magalong)… divided the cities into groups, into clusters, and the police working in the area anyway are told also to perform contact tracing tasks,” he said.
“So they just perform within their geographical unit. They follow up on individuals who reside in their assigned area. And if in the course of talking to them they happen to come across a name who had close contact with the person in a different area, they simply communicate with their counterpart,” he added.
Roque said that in Baguio, anyone who was identified as having close contact with the patient was not only told to isolate but was tested as well.
“They are given PCR tests. To him, to Mayor Magalong, it’s non-negotiable that all those who had contact with the positive patient should be given PCR test,” he said.
“Because we have increased the capacity on these tests, we can do it,” he added.