MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Monday said that more than 69,000 contact tracers have been deployed nationwide to track down and manage close contacts of confirmed novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, as well as, reduce the spread of infection, and to offer diagnostic, counseling and treatment for virus-positive cases.
In a statement, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said a total of 69,098 contact tracers assigned to 5,215 contact tracing teams in the country are now actively aiding communities in monitoring both asymptomatic and symptomatic COVID-19 patients and their close contacts.
He said these individuals will be monitoring daily for 14 days beginning from the last point of exposure.
“Our local contact tracing teams nationwide are working double-time to interrupt the transmission and reduce the spread of infection. This way, we can cover all the bases in the end-to-end trace-test-treat (T3) management system against this virus,” he said.
The DILG chief added that the number of contact tracers is continuously increasing due to the number of volunteers from the communities coming forward and helping in efforts to monitor and search for those who have had close contacts with COVID-19 cases.
“We are also awaiting the approval of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to our proposal of hiring at least 50,000 contact tracers to further intensify our contact tracing efforts,” he said.
According to Año, the country’s contact tracing capacity stands at 98.2% as of July 17, as local contact tracing teams have so far traced 47,474 out of 48,371 confirmed cases and their 161,975 close contacts.
He noted that MIMAROPA, Regions V, Region IX, Caraga, and BARMM have 100% contact tracing capability. On the other hand, Regions X, VI, and II have the lowest capacity with 87.47%, 80.11%, and 74.41%.
The World Health Organization earlier stressed the need for the Philippines to beef up its tracing efforts and testing capacity to allow local government units to isolate possible cases to prevent the spread of the virus.
The DILG also took note of the contact tracing efforts and other quarantine measures in Cebu City, which it said were instrumental in the reduction of the transmission of COVID-19 in the area.
DILG Spokesperson and Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said the efficiency of contact tracing teams in Cebu City and other quarantine measures is at 99% based on a report they received.
Malaya said that with the help of a total of 31 teams in Cebu City devoted to the contact tracing efforts, 7,589 out of 7,685 COVID-19 cases have so far been traced, and 9,828 contacts have been assessed.
“We have been seeing a downward trend in the city, and this is partly because of the work of our contact tracers,” Malaya said.
Meanwhile, the DILG welcomed the designation of Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong as the government’s new anti-COVID czar on contact tracing.
Año believes that Magalong’s expertise in the field, owing to his experience as former chief of the PNP Central Investigation and Detection Group, will greatly help the country’s fight against the pandemic.
“With Mayor Benjie leading the government’s contact tracing efforts, I am sure that the country’s contact tracing capability will significantly improve,” he said.
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