THE government kicks off today its reinvigorated contact tracing program, seen as the “game changer” in the country’s battle to control the rampage of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) rolls out the recruitment, hiring and training of 50,000 new contract tracers.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said the additional tracers will augment the 238,000 contact tracers that the DILG are tapping now. Of the figure, only 97,400 are working full-time while the rest are volunteers who help in the program in their free time.
Año’s announcement came three days after President Duterte signed into the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, or Bayanihan II, which sets aside a P5 billion appropriation for the program.
The contact tracing program, according to the Cabinet secretary, is seen as “the game-changer in the country’s COVID-response since this will allow us to cut the transmission of the disease and ultimately defeat COVID-19.”
He stressed that contact tracers are vital in identifying and isolating people who have been exposed to COVID-19 positives throughout the country.
“With the additional 50,000 contact tracers, we will now be able to meet the (Baguio Mayor and contact tracing czar Benjamin) Magalong formula of tracing 37 close contacts of one COVID patient up to the third degree,” said Año.
Twenty thousand of the contract tracers will be assigned in Luzon while Visayas and Mindanao will get 15,000 each. The teams will be dispatched to areas where there are high concentrations of COVID-19 infection. Out of Luzon’s 20,000 new contact tracers, 9,600 will be deployed in Metro Manila, which is the epicenter of the country’s COVID-19 pandemic.
“The DILG is looking for dedicated and patriotic individuals who want to join the fight against COVID-19. If you want to take an active part in defeating the pandemic, join the DILG contact tracing teams,” Año said.
To be a contact tracer, one must have a bachelor’s degree or have reached college level in allied medical or criminology courses. Aspirants must also be skilled in data gathering and must have an experience in research and documentation.
He or she must be competent in interviewing COVID-19 patients and close contacts, must possess the ability to advocate public health education messages and have innate investigative capability.
Applicants are required to submit a letter of intent, his/her Personal Data Sheet, NBI clearance, and drug test results. They may submit their application and required documents to the DILG provincial and city field offices nationwide or through the official website of the department.
Año said contractual personnel whose employment were not renewed, Overseas Filipino Workers whose employment were disrupted, and local employees whose services have been recently terminated may be given priority in the hiring process, if qualified.
Once hired, the contact tracers may will receive a compensation of P18,784 per month in a contract of service status.
Meanwhile, Joint Task Force COVID Shield chief Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar yesterday directed police commanders to initiate early coordination with local government units (LGUs) for the crafting of protocols that will be enforced when the country observes All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days on November 1 and 2, respectively.
Eleazar said early preparation is important, particularly in large public cemeteries, as this would give LGUs sufficient time to map out an Undas COVID-19 protocol.
“We in the Joint Task Force COVID Shield respect the Filipino tradition of honoring their departed loved ones. But this should be done in a way that will not compromise the health safety of our kababayans,” said Eleazar.
“That is why early preparation is necessary in order to give the LGUs, the local police and other concerned agencies an ample time to come up with the best plan that will serve as a middle ground between the effort of the government to protect the people from infection and respecting our Undas tradition,” added Eleazar.
Some LGUs have already ordered the closure of all cemeteries, memorial parks and columbaries as early as October 31 until November 3 to prevent the influx of people in these areas.
Eleazar said police commanders should be in constant coordination with LGUs to secure cemeteries and prevent mass gathering.
Also, Eleazar said coordination had been already made with the National Task Force against COVID 19 for recommendations on how the health safety protocols could be effectively observed during Undas.
“On the part of the JTF COVID Shield, in coordination with the PNP and the LGUs, we assure that the minimum health safety standard protocol will be observed for the safety of our kababayan,” said Eleazar.
Eleazar said the JTF COVID Shield will support the decisions of LGUS for Undas as long as they are not contrary to the protocols of the NTF.