MANILA, Philippines — Due to budget constraints caused by the expiration of the Bayanihan 2, only 15,000 out of around 50,000 contact tracers hired by the Department of the Interior and Local Government in the past year will be re-hired for the next six months following the termination of contracts last December 31, the department disclosed.
In separate statements, DILG spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said that this shouldn't affect the "strong capacity" of the country's "contact tracing army," which has around 257,000 personnel deployed to local governments across the country.
"We should sustain our contact tracing efforts especially with the reported entry of the new UK variant into the country. Hence, we are pleased that we have been given the funds to re-hire some 15,000 CTs this year who will continue to help us track down, monitor coronavirus cases, and cut transmission in the community," he said.
“Therefore, DILG field offices and the LGUs are directed to conduct an immediate assessment of the performance of the contact tracers and proceed with the selection of those who have effectively and efficiently performed their assigned tasks,” he added.
According to the health department and the World Health Organization, the ideal contact tracer to population ratio is 1:800 so to fully cover 108 million Filipinos, or around 135,000 contact tracers.
Sen. Sonny Angara, who sponsored the department's proposed budget for 2021, was quoted as saying towards the end of 2020 that while there were 257,000 contact tracers in the country, only about 55% or 141,000 of them were “capacitated.”
Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, who serves as the government's contact tracing czar, also admitted at a press briefing Saturday that the country’s contact tracing efficiency ratio stood at just 1:7 to 1:9, far from the ideal 1:37 contacts of up to three layers of transmission per infected person.
Why does this matter?
- The DILG’s announcement came against the backdrop of concerns about the new coronavirus variant first recorded in the United Kingdom, which is said to be more infectious according to experts.
- In 2020, as many as 97,000 contact tracers were deployed during the community quarantine. The target then was 150,000 contact tracers.
- It has been 307 days since the first enhanced community quarantine. The Philippines is still under the world's longest lockdown.
- As of the Department of Health's latest case bulletin Sunday, the national caseload in the Philippines has breached 500,000 coronavirus cases. Exactly 24,691 of these are still active cases.
- Quezon City disclosed it had identified 143 persons considered to be close contacts of the first Filipino infected with the new coronavirus variant.
"Much as we would like to continue the services of all the 50,000 CTs hired in 2020, we need to have a more rational number of CTs and work within the available budget allotted to the Department. Hence, only 15,000 CTs will be re-hired under a six-month contract in the meantime while we wait for the release of additional funds," Malaya said.
Per DILG guidelines, contact tracers are classified as contractual workers who earn a minimum of P18,784 per month.
DILG Officer in Charge Bernardo Florece Jr. in a memorandum issued earlier this week directed regional offices “to prioritize the rehiring of contact tracers” in localities with “active cases and have rising active cases.”
Re-hired contact tracers in each region
- National Capital Region (2,381)
- Central Luzon (1,504)
- Central Visayas (1,417)
- Calabarzon (1,264)
- Zamboanga Peninsula (1,052)
- Western Visayas (974)
- Davao Region (813)
- Bicol (856)
- Northern Mindanao (634)
- BARMM (510)
- Ilocos Region (501)
- Mimaropa (451)
- Eastern Visayas (433)
- Cagayan Valley (352)
- Cordillera Administrative Region (267)
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