Department of Interior and Local Government. Video courtesy of Department of Health
MANILA — The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said Thursday it may need more than P1 billion in additional funds to extend the contracts of its contact tracers— a role critical amid the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the country.
In a media briefing, DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said that they earlier hired 15,000 contact tracers with 6-month contracts lasting until June.
They are among the total 255,854 contact tracers nationwide, which includes members of the Philippine National Police, the Bureau of Fire Protection, and volunteer groups. A total of 29,611 teams are headed by local health offices across the country.
Malaya explained that funding from the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, an emergency COVID-19 response measure, allowed them to hire 48,000 contact tracers last year. But when cases declined in most areas of the country, they deployed those contact tracers to specific places with rising infections.
“Dahil bumaba ang pondo namin this year, ang na-hire na lang namin is 15,000,” he said, referring to the P500 million appropriated for the DILG under the national budget.
(Because our funding was reduced this year, we were only able to hire 15,000.)
Of the 15,000 contact tracers, 2,381 were assigned to Metro Manila, 1,504 to Region 3, and 1,407 to Region 7.
In January, the World Health Organization expressed concern that the contracts of contact tracers were not renewed, especially since the country was expecting a surge in cases due to the holidays. At the time, the DILG said it was still looking for funds.
Malaya pointed out that although they have only hired 15,000 contact tracers so far this year, the current total of over 255,000 is higher than the ideal ratio set by the Department of Health of 1 contact tracer to 800 people.
“If it is 1 is to 800, ang kailangan lang natin (all we need) for 108 million Filipinos is 135,000 contact tracers,” he said.
Malaya said the P500 million allotted for their budget this year is only enough to cover salaries of contact tracers until June. He said the department plans to ask Congress for additional funding, estimating that over P1 billion may be needed.
He said if their request is granted, they will have enough contact tracers until the end of the year.