No contact tracing without funds

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    ‘The government, particularly the IATF, DOH and DBM, will again be pilloried due to the turtle-pace movement of our contact tracing efforts, coupled with loose implementation of lockdowns and community quarantine policies.’

    ALL the talk about contact tracing is just hot air because the government, specifically the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), does not have the funds to implement this very important activity.

    One can appreciate what genuine contact tracing is all about when one hears the explanation of Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, whose city has had a rather successful experience in this very tedious and challenging activity.

    Magalong said a single COVID-19 positive patient can infect scores of individuals in just a matter of hours, and these individuals can pass on the coronavirus to others.  Thus, the infections are massively exponential, and health authorities will always be racing against time to contain the contagion.

    Last week, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the DILG will start hiring some 50,000 contact tracers by July, adding the department is studying the possibility of tapping displaced jeepney drivers to fill these positions.

    Health Secretary Francisco Duque III touted an even bigger number.  He told a Senate hearing that the DOH, in coordination with other government agencies, will hire some 130,000 contact tracers for three months to cover a 1:800 ratio for the country’s population.

    DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Mitigation of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has already made a request for funding from the Department of Budget and Management but the funds are yet to be made available.

    This allocation for contact tracing and the hiring of 50,000 tracers will have to pass through the DILG, for downloading to local government units (LGUs) which are in a position to implement such a massive program.

    Malaya had a terse comment on the matter. While he told reporters that the government really has a program for contact tracing, the DILG does not have the money yet.  Mayor Magalong’s warning that we have to outrace the virus to defeat the epidemic will come to naught without funding.  Meanwhile, total COVID-19 cases have reached 26,781, with 301 more recoveries and 1,103 deaths.

    The government, particularly the IATF, DOH and DBM, will again be pilloried due to the turtle-pace movement of our contact tracing efforts, coupled with loose implementation of lockdowns and community quarantine policies.  Secretary Duque may be heard and seen again as complaining to the President that his men and women at the DOH are “pawardi-wardi” (sloppy), although the blame should be shared by all concerned officials of the national government.

    What else can we expect when the leading health institution (the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine) had to temporarily borrow medical supplies from a private organization (Philippine Red Cross) because its own supplies have yet to arrive from abroad, due to logistical problems?

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