DILG warns public on fake ‘contact tracers’

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    THE Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Thursday warned the public against scammers who pose as contact tracers and collect money from their victims supposedly as payment for testing procedures.

    “We ask the public to be vigilant. Huwag po tayong basta-basta magtitiwala sa mga taong tatawag o mag-tetext para humingi ng pera (Don’t trust people who will call or text you to ask for money),” Interior undersecretary and spokesman Jonathan Malaya said.Malaya said the DILG has gotten reports from its regional offices in Central Luzon about individuals who are pretending to be members of the Department of Health’s (DOH) COVID-19 contact tracing teams.

    Malaya said the scammers call household members and tell them they have been identified as close contacts of a person who has tested positive for COVID-19. The caller would tell their victims they need to go on home quarantine and undergo COVID-19 testing within 72 hours.

    The pranksters would then ask for the address of their victims and tell them to prepare $50 (about P2,500) as payment for the test kits. Malaya said the victims are threatened with penalties if they refuse to be tested.

    “’Yun na ‘yung catch, matapos makuha ‘yung address ng biktima, bigla nila ngayon itong sisingilin at sasabihing hindi libre ang test kit (That is the catch, after getting the address of their victims, they will ask for money and tell them the test kits are not free),” Malaya said.

    “Inuulit ko po: Hindi po naniningil ng bayad ang mga contact tracing team. Hindi po nila ‘yan trabaho (I repeat: Contact tracing teams do not charge or collect fees. That is not their job),” he added.

    Malaya urged the public to report to authorities if they fall prey to the scammers. He said they may contact the nearest police station or unit in their area or call the DILG through its Hotline 911 and the DILG-Public Assistance and Complaint Center at (02) 8925-0343.

    There are currently 69,000 contact tracers throughout the country under the supervision of local government units. The DILG is planning to hire 50,000 additional contact tracers to beef up contact tracing capabilities.

    Meanwhile, the headquarters of the Ilocos region police office in San Fernando City in La Union was placed on lockdown after three of 578 police applicants tested positive for COVID-19.

    Regional police director Brig. Gen. Rodolfo Azurin has ordered the temporary suspension of the recruitment process.

    Azurin placed the entire camp on lockdown “to give leeway in the contact tracing and disinfection of the camp premises specifically in the areas where the processing of recruitment was conducted.” He did not say how long the lockdown would be.

    “Presently, we are establishing the contact tracing of all the applicants that the three have made starting July 23, 2020 including our personnel from the PNP Recruitment and Selection Service, medical as well as the observers from NAPOLCOM (National Police Commission) in compliance with the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) guidelines,” said Azurin.

    Relatedly, the Quezon City government issued new guidelines to enhance contact tracing and enforcement of health protocols in companies with 100 or more employees.

    “These guidelines require such workplaces to implement certain health measures to contain the disease, minimize employee risk and economic effects,” said Mayor Joy Belmonte in a memorandum sent to call centers and other workplaces with large manpower.

    Under the guidelines, Belmonte tasked the firms to conduct meticulous contact tracing if any of their employees tests positive for COVID-19 or is found to be a close contact of an infected individual.

    The QC government said a person is considered a close contact if he or she had a face-to-face contact with another who tested positive for COVID-19 within one meter distance for more than 15 minutes and within a 14 day period from the confirmed case’s onset of symptoms.

    Companies must require close contacts to complete a 14-day home quarantine if no COVID-19 symptoms were exhibited. The management should undertake the swab testing of the close contact if he or she exhibits any COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, difficulty breathing or body aches.

    “In either case, close contacts should not be allowed to report for work immediately upon identification as such, and should be required to self-isolate at home,” Belmonte said.

    If feasible, companies are encouraged to provide daily allowance to employees on home quarantine. Companies are also mandated to require employees to list down all usual close contacts, both inside and outside work, even prior to any confirmed or suspected COVID-19 case.

    “Employees are also required to undergo self-monitoring for symptoms daily. Employees that experience any onset of symptoms during work should inform their supervisor and leave the workplace immediately,” said Belmonte.

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