MANILA— President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the allocation of funds to continue hiring 15,000 COVID-19 contact tracers, his ally said on Friday, as the Philippines scrambled to contain the highly infectious Delta coronavirus variant.
The funds approved by Duterte will be enough to retain 15,000 contact-tracers from Aug. 2 to Dec. 31, Sen. Christopher Go, a former longtime aide of the President, said in a statement.
The interior department said it requested from the President P1.7 billion to continue tapping the contact tracers, whose contracts would have expired this month.
"Hanggang maaari, i-renew na lang natin ang kontrata ng 15k contact tracers dahil alam at sanay na sila sa trabaho," Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said in a separate statement.
"Besides, we have no time to spare and every second matters dahil mabilis ang pagkalat ng virus," he added.
(As much as possible, let us just renew the contracts of 15,000 contact-tracers because they know and are used to their job. Besides, we have no time to spare and every second matters because the spread of the virus is quick.)
Authorities earlier said contact tracing was the weakest part of the country's COVID-19 response. The Philippines has yet to implement a unified, digital contact-tracing system almost a year and a half into the pandemic.
The Philippines on Friday confirmed 10,623 new coronavirus cases, the largest single-day increase in infections in nearly 4 months. The country's total cases are now at about 1.6 million, the second highest in Southeast Asia, next to Indonesia.
The health department has recorded 450 cases of the Delta variant, which it said has been detected in all 16 cities and one municipality of Metro Manila.
Home to some 13 million people, the capital region on Friday returned to the toughest lockdown level, at least until Aug. 20, to curb the spread of the Delta variant.