DOH: Government hiring 95,000 contact tracers

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DOH: Government hiring 95,000 contact tracers
DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire announced the government is hiring over 95,000 contact tracers. (Image from Manila Bulletin News)

Department of Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Wednesday the Philippines is hiring 95,000 contact tracers amid the COVID-19 crisis. 

According to Vergeire, the ideal ratio of contact tracer is one per 800 people.

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“Ang standard po na kailangan po natin ay 126,000. [Pero] mayroon na po tayong 38,000 na contact tracers galing sa local government units. Iyong 95,000 [na contact tracers], ‘yun ang kailangan nating tulong para makaagapay,” she said.

(The standard is we need 126,000. But we still have 38,000 contact tracers from the local government units. The 95,000 is needed to assist us.)

The minimum qualifications for contact tracers are not yet finalized, Vergeire said. And as for the salary, she said it would depend on the salary grade provided under civil service laws.

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On May 12, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said the government should hire displaced workers as contact tracers. 

Dominguez said then that around 1.2 to 1.5 million lost their jobs temporarily due to the pandemic.

“One contract tracer can take a whole day for one case, so we need to hire more contract tracers to match the numbers we expect [of tracking],” Dominguez said.

Also read: UP study: DOH not reporting 7,000 additional cases, NCR should maintain MECQ

Contact tracing in Philippines

The World Health Organization (WHO) acting representative to the Philippines urged the government to work harder and speed-up its slow contact tracing of individuals who came in close contact with COVID-19 patients. 

“I would say we are slow… we need to push harder, and we really need to work harder,” Dr. Socorro Escalante told an online forum by the Philippine College of Physicians.

“By that time, we have already spread the infection to many people, and that’s really very, very late,” said Escalante.

She also asked the Philippine government to begin the contact tracing once a suspect COVID-19 case visits a hospital and not wait until test results were confirmed. 

Dr. Alethea De Guzman of the Department of Health’s epidemiology bureau said the country had the machinery to conduct “rigorous contact tracing,” but implementation had been inconsistent.

“Delay in contact tracing needs to be addressed because otherwise, we are not going to catch up with the transmission the virus,” she warned.

De Guzman, however, said the government is now working on a contact tracking application that could cut the 13-day process to 2 days.

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