Number of contact tracers per area should be based on daily virus cases: pandemic czar


Posted at Aug 27 2020 11:57 AM | Updated as of Aug 27 2020 12:10 PM

MANILA - The number of additional contact tracers should be based on the daily number of new COVID-19 cases in a particular area, one of the country's pandemic czars said Thursday.

Baguio City Mayor and contact tracing czar Benjamin Magalong cited as examples virus epicenter Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, and the Bangsamoro region, among others.

"'Yan po ang matatas na kinukulang talaga dahil ang kanilang daily cases talaga hong tumataas. Sa'kin pong pananaw dapat ang basis ng pag-determine kung ano ang adequate number of contact tracer should be based on the number of daily cases," he told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo.

(These areas lack contact tracing because their daily number of cases really increase. For me, we should base the number of contact tracers on the number of daily cases.)

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), however, would hire contact tracers based on the population of an area, said Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya.

Malaya cited the World Health Organization’s ideal ratio for contact tracers- one for every 800 individuals in a community.

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The DILG aims to recruit some 50,000 contact tracers within "two weeks' time" once it receives funding from the Bayanihan to Recover as One bill that President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to sign, Malaya said.

Graduates of criminology and medical courses will be prioritized, followed by those who have taken up these courses and those who reached tertiary education in general, according to Malaya.

"Dadaan naman po sila sa training na gagawin ng local government academy at Philippine Public Safety College," he told Teleradyo in a separate interview.

(They will undergo training with the local government academy and Philippine Public Safety College.)

Applicants will be trained in cognitive interviewing and the health department's contact tracing basic module, Magalong said.

Each contact tracing team will have a police or military investigator and a health worker, he added.

Contact tracers will also receive the same benefits given to frontliners, Malaya said.

"Kung sakaling sila ay magkasakit ay atin din pong tutugunan. Of course may kasama rin po na personal protective equipment 'yan. Sisiguraduhin po natin na maaalagaan natin itong contact tracers na ito," he said.

(If they get sick, we will provide for them. Of course it will also include personal protective equipment. We will ensure their safety.)

Magalong, meantime, said he has appealed to the Department of Information and Communications Technology to expedite the process of synchronizing digital contact tracing tools in the country.

He added that he would meet with ICT Secretary Gringo Honasan next week.

The country currently has several contact tracing applications and systems such as StaySafe and COVID-KAYA, aside from those initiated by local governments, Magalong said.

"We should look at this with a sense of urgency, hindi puwede parang ang tingin natin dito negosyo. Dapat tanggalin muna nila 'yung business side of it," he said.

(We should look at this with a sense of urgency, we should not see this as a business. They should take away the business side of it.)

The Philippines as of Wednesday has recorded 202,361 cases of COVID-19, with 133,460 recoveries and 3,137 deaths.