DILG-hired contract tracers of Puerto Princesa City. Image from Bobb Forones

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has reported that some 46,338 contact tracers out of their targeted 50,000 prescribed under Bayanihan 2 Law, have been deployed in all local government units (LGUs) nationwide as a measure against COVID-19.

In a press statement issued on November 17, DILG Sec. Eduardo M. Año said that as the department gears to complete the targeted numbers of contact tracers, those who have been hired will already work on the ground to aid and intensify the country’s response and contact tracing capabilities, especially at the grassroots level, to counter COVID-19.

“The low number of cases we are experiencing now is partly a result of our ramped up contact tracing capacity which immediately cuts the community transmission once a COVID patient is identified,” he said.

“Our battle against COVID-19 is likely to be a long haul until our medical experts find a vaccine and a cure. With the help of the 46,338 CTs who are now embedded in the localities, the task of fighting and containing the virus will be much easier and will be carried out more efficiently,” Año added.

He also directed the LGUs in typhoon-ravaged areas with evacuation centers to deploy their Contact Tracing Teams to implement minimum health standards, conduct health promotion among the evacuees, and distribute face masks and alcohol, among others.

“Malaki ang kanilang ambag sa paglaban ng pamahalaan sa COVID-19 at sa katuparan ng ating target na maging COVID-free ang ating bansa,” he added.

Año said that as committed by the DILG, the 50,000 contract tracers will be completed as 6,664 qualified applicants nationwide are now in the latter phase of the hiring process to determine who will fill the remaining 3,662 CTs that will complete the 50k targeted number.

“We are geared towards completing the 50K CTs in compliance with the law, and we are going to hire the remaining 4k within the week,” he said.

He further explained that it is noteworthy that some regions are relinquishing some CTs stating that “they already have the numbers sufficient for their contact tracing needs” hence. the appeal of the DILG to LGUs to notify the Department if they still need additional CTs. “Mayroon po tayong mga sobrang CTs kaya kung may pagkukulang po sa inyong LGU, ipagbigay-alam ninyo lang po sa amin,” Año added.

As of November 13, 2020, a total of 1,410 contact tracers can still be redistributed to other LGUs that are in need due to sudden outbreaks.

Año said that the National Capital Region (NCR), as the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis in the country got the most number of contact tracers with 7,362 followed by Region III with 5,026; Region VII with 4,241; 3,679 for CALABARZON; 3,306 for Region VI; Region IX with 3,267; Region XI with 3,041; Region V with 2,736; CARAGA with 2,544; and, 2,000 for Region X.

Other regions such as MIMAROPA have 1,529 new contact tracers with Region XII getting 1,501; BARMM with 1,480; Region I with 1,445; Region VIII with 1,395; Region II with 1,215; and CAR with 571.

“Itong karagdagang 46,338 na CTs na ito on top of the 97,400 CTs that we had hired before will definitely boost the country’s contact tracing capabilities and hopefully quell the progression of the virus in the Philippines. Malaking bagay talaga ito,” Año said.

Meanwhile, DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya thanked the CTs who answered the call of the government to serve amid the COVID-19 public health emergency.

He said that it is admirable that people are willing to come forward to serve their countrymen and help the government to fight this pandemic. “Maraming salamat sa bawat isa sa inyo at sa lahat ng ating mga frontliners, sa inyong paglilingkod sa gitna ng pandemyang ating kinakaharap. May each one of you be instrumental in ensuring that Filipinos are far from the danger of COVID-19.”

He also ensured that all of the government’s CTs will be safe as they fulfill their duties with the provision of complete Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); medical supplies; and other vital necessities in the performance of their duties, among others.

Malaya said that among the CT’s responsibilities are to conduct 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 sector; conduct daily monitoring of close and general contacts for at least 14 days, and perform such other tasks in relation to the COVID response. They are also mandated to conduct health promotion activities in areas with zero-covid cases.

Under the guidelines set by the DILG, CTs will earn a minimum of P18,784 per month on a contract of service status.