DILG calls on Congress to allocate funds for hiring of 50k contact tracers

Robie de Guzman   •   August 14, 2020   •   302

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has urged Congress to allot funds for the hiring and training of 50,000 contact tracers to boost the country’s tracing capability and curb the transmission of the virus.

In a letter to Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año appealed for the allocation of P5 billion out of the P162 billion fund to be created under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Bill to hire and train qualified and competent persons to serve as members of contact tracing teams starting September this year.

While contact tracing efforts are already being conducted by more than 7,000 contact tracing teams with a total of more than 85,000 contact tracers, Año said there is a need to hire at least 50,000 more to meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended ratio of one contact tracer for every 800 people.

“With a projected population of 108 million this year, we need 50,000 more contact tracers to attain the ideal number of 135,000 contact tracers to pursue quick and credible tracing of close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 patients,” he said in a statement.

He also said that the current number of contact tracers cannot meet the recommendations of Contact Tracing Czar Mayor Benjie Magalong in order to cut the transmission of the disease. 

“We need to significantly increase the number of contact tracers to meet the 1:37 ratio target recommended by Mayor Magalong which has been effective in Baguio and in Cebu City,” he said.

According to the DILG Chief, time is of the essence and government has to act with dispatch given the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country. 

“We are racing against time. Every single second counts and the longer we fail to expand our contact tracing capacity, the higher the probability that the virus spreads to more communities. We, therefore, need more contact tracers urgently to break the chain of transmission of this virus,” he said.

To ensure funds for the hiring of contact tracers, the DILG proposes the inclusion of a provision under Section 4 of Senate Bill 1564 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One bill on the “allocation of P5-billion to finance the hiring of 50,000 contact tracers to be implemented by the DILG which shall include, but not limited to, recruitment, training, compensation and operational expenses.”

The DILG is also proposing for the amendment of Section 3 (b) of the bill to ensure that contact tracing efforts in the community will be “subject to the rules and regulations to be issued by the DILG which shall include recruitment, training, compensation, among others, of contact tracers.”

Under the DILG’s proposal, the minimum qualification standards for a contact tracer are: graduate of a Bachelor’s degree on Allied Medical Courses or Criminology; one-year relevant experience; and four hours of relevant training.

Second priority will be given to those who have completed at least two years of college education in medical or criminology- related courses provided they have the relevant training and experience, it added.

“We will also prioritize the hiring of government contract of service personnel whose contracts have not been renewed due to COVID-19 budget realignments, returning Overseas Filipino Workers whose employments have been disrupted, and local company workers whose services have been recently terminated,” the department said.

Of the 50,000 contact tracers to be hired, 20,000 will be deployed in Luzon, 15,000 to the Visayas, and another 15,000 in Mindanao based on the region’s population and deducting the current number of contact tracers already working in the areas. 

The hiring of contact tracers will be facilitated by the DILG regional offices with the help of its provincial, city, and municipal offices that will screen the applicants.

Pursuant to Resolution 25 of the Interagency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID), the DILG is the lead agency in the government’s contact tracing efforts.

IATF to study mayors’ bid to retain Metro Manila under GCQ after Sept. 30 – Año

Robie de Guzman   •   September 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Most mayors in the National Capital Region (NCR) are in favor of extending the general community quarantine (GCQ) being implemented in the region, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año said on Friday.

Año said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) will meet on Sunday, Sept. 27 to discuss the recommendation of the Metro Manila Council on the next quarantine status in NCR by October.

“Maraming mga mayors ng NCR ang gusto pa rin mag-GCQ pero depende pa rin sa usapan sa Sunday,” he said.

Metro Manila is under GCQ until Sept. 30 as earlier recommended by the IATF and approved by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Año said they will thoroughly discuss the Metro Manila mayors’ proposal in order to balance the factors of public health and economy which has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Dalawa ‘yan: mahigpit na MGCQ o maluwag na GCQ. Kapag titignan mo mas maganda talaga na naka-GCQ tayo kahit magluwag ka ng konti pero meron kang talagang mas mataaas na panuntunan kaysa yung nag MGCQ ka pagkatapos hihigpitan mo,” he said.

The Department of Trade and Industry earlier said that Metro Manila could be placed under modified GCQ as this would allow the reopening of more industries to help revive the economy.

The IATF is also set to meet with Duterte on Sunday night to discuss the next quarantine classifications in NCR. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Asher Cadapan Jr.)

No more deadline: Hiring of contact tracers to continue until target is reached – DILG

Robie de Guzman   •   September 24, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Thursday said it will do away with deadlines and instead continue to hire contact tracers until their target of at least 50,000 is reached.

In a statement, DILG spokesperson Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said the agency’s provincial and city field offices will continue to accept applications until the slots allocated to them have been filled up.

The department earlier announced that the submission of applications for contact tracers is only until Sept. 23.

 “What’s important to us is to fill up the slots and recruit the most number of Contact Tracers as provided in the Bayanihan 2 law so those who meet the deadline will immediately be processed but we will continue to accept applications until we have met our targets,” he said.

Malaya said that some 10,000 individuals have already applied in Metro Manila but many have incomplete documents so they are giving more time for them to complete the requirements on a first come, first served basis.

“As soon as they are deemed qualified by the selection board, they will be hired, trained, and deployed to the various LGUs,” he added.

The DILG official said the first batch of DILG-hired contact tracers will be deployed to the local government units by first week of October.

The department earlier said that local and overseas Filipino workers whose service have been recently terminated or their employment contracts were not renewed amid the pandemic will be given priority in the hiring process.

 To qualify, the applicant must have a Bachelor’s degree or college level in an allied medical course or criminology course.

Aspirants must also be skilled in data gathering and have assisted in research and documentation; able to interview COVID-19 cases and close contacts in order to gather data; possess the ability to advocate public health education messages; and have investigative capability.
 
“While our first preference is college graduates or college level of allied medical courses or criminology, we are also open to graduates or college level of any course. So, we urge them to apply and help the country defeat COVID-19,” he said.
Malaya said applicants are required to submit an application letter, Personal Data Sheet, National Bureau of Investigation clearance, diploma or transcript of record, and drug test result to the nearest DILG provincial or city field office.

Contact tracers will earn a minimum of P18,784 per month in a contract of service status.

Their responsibilities include conducting interviews, profiling, and perform an initial public health risk assessment of COVID-19 cases and their identified close contacts; refer the close contacts to isolation facilities; conduct enhanced contact tracing in collaboration with other agencies and private sectors; conduct daily monitoring of close and general contacts for at least 14 days, and perform such other tasks in relation to the COVID response.

DILG orders CIDG to probe group behind ‘flatten the fear’ event

Robie de Guzman   •   September 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has directed the Philippine National Police-Crime Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) to look into the “flatten the fear” event allegedly held by a group seeking an end to all community quarantine restrictions in the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement on Wednesday, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año ordered the CIDG to probe the group’s reported violation of prohibition on mass gathering, physical distancing and other minimum health protocols.

“Inutusan na po natin ang PNP-CIDG para masusing imbestigahan ang naturang mass gathering kung dapat ba silang managot sa kanilang paglabag sa mga alintuntunin sa panahon ng pandemya,” Año said.

“Maaaring gusto lamang ng grupong ito na makatulong sa pamahalaan para tuluyang masugpo ang pandemya, subalit ang kanilang idinaos na mass gathering at tahasang hindi pagsuot ng face mask ay lubhang delikado hindi lamang para sa kanila kundi pati na rin sa kani-kanilang mga pamilya,” he added.

Año said the investigation is upon the request of the Department of Health.

He said the members of the Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines recently held a mass gathering dubbed as Flatten the Fear campaign where many of its participants purposely did not wear face mask because according to them, they do not need to do so as they are already on prophylaxis and preventive treatment of COVID-19.

The DILG chief said that the group’s call to end all restrictions at this critical time sends a wrong message to the public and undermines months of hard work by health authorities to flatten the curve and defeat the coronavirus disease.

He added that the group should have discussed first with the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) its recommendations instead of holding a mass gathering as “this move undermines the work that has been done for many months by our frontliners.”

“We wish to remind them that we are not out of the woods yet and that community transmission is on-going. While we have been able to lower our cases, we cannot be complacent and let down our guard since an outbreak may suddenly occur as what we have seen in many countries all over the world,” he said.

“Kapag tuluyan nating tinanggal ang Community Quarantine na hindi pa natin lubos na napapababa ang mga kaso, maaaring magkaroon ng biglang pagdami ng kaso at magugulat na lang tayo sa biglang dami ng pasyente na ating aasikasuhin,” he added.

The Philippines has so far recorded a total of 291,789 COVID-19 infections, 56,097 of which are active cases.

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