LGUs told: Provide contact tracers’ PPEs for now

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 21) — The Interior Department is appealing to local government units to ensure that all the nearly 50,000 contact tracers deployed to augment the country’s COVID-19 response have the necessary personal protective equipment while at work.

Spokesperson Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya disclosed on Saturday that a total of 48,074 contact tracers have been hired, trained, and are now reporting for duty. They comprise some 96% of the targeted 50,000 contact tracers under the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act.

The law allots ₱5 billion for the recruitment, training, and compensation of the contact tracers, as well as logistical and operational expenses. Malaya, however, said procurement of PPEs is still ongoing.

Alam niyo naman po matagal ang procurement process under Republic Act 9184,” Malaya said in an online media briefing. “So ang amin pong pakiusap sa mga LGUs, habang ginagawa pa po ‘yung procurement process para sa PPEs nitong mga contact tracers, sila na po muna ang magbigay ng mga PPEs sa kanila.”

[Translation: You're aware of the length of the procurement process under Republic Act 9184. So our request to LGUs is for them to provide the contact tracers with PPEs while the procurement process is underway.]

The Department of Interior and Local Government believes an improved contact tracing contributed to the downward trend of coronavirus infections.

“With the 50,000 quota given to us, kumpleto na po ang contact tracing army ng ating bansa (the country’s contact tracing army is now complete),” Malaya said.

However, Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong, the country‘s contact tracing czar, said much more needs to be done. He admitted that the Philippines still has a “weak” system of identifying those who had interacted with patients infected with COVID-19. He said the government is working on a uniform data collection tool to track COVID-19 cases and their contacts.

According to the DILG guidelines, contact tracers are considered as contractual workers, earning a minimum of ₱18,784 per month.