MANILA, Philippines — The Department of the Interior and Local Government has deployed additional contact tracers in Metro Manila to identify close contacts of coronavirus patients amid the spike in COVID cases in the capital region.
To recall, the department at the start of the year was forced to rehire just 30% of the 50,000 contact tracers—or only 15,000 for all of the whose contracts ended last year, citing a limited budget.
As it currently stands, the National Capital Region has a total of 9,386 contact tracers. Only the cities of Manila, San Juan and Taguig as well as Pateros town have complied with the appropriate ratio of one contact tracer per 800 people. Manila City has the most with 2,675 members.
In a statement sent to reporters Thursday, DILG Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said that the Philippine National Police, an attached bureau under the department, is set to deploy an additional 362 uniformed personnel to various LGU contact tracing teams in Metro Manila to supplement local contact tracing efforts.
This is on top of the more than 9,000 officers that the national police deployed to oversee the tight enforcement of the uniform quarantine.
“The Chiefs of Police and the Fire Marshalls have been instructed to coordinate with their respective LGUs for their respective requirements. If the LGUs, for example, needs more, the chiefs of police can request from their District Director, and if these cannot be met by the district, the NCRPO can deploy the remaining personnel from the mobile forces,” he said.
DILG OIC Bernardo Florece has directed the various police regional offices across the country to assign at least 20 personnel each to do remote contact tracing as may be required by the Metro Manila LGUs.
“The Police Regional Offices will be assigned to each of the LGUs and they will help in making calls and monitoring the status of COVID positives,” he said.
According to Malaya, the PNP contact tracers are deployed as follows:
- Malabon – 16
- Navotas – 12
- Valenzuela – 17
- Caloocan – 30
- NPD reserve for Camanava – 16
- Marikina – 14
- Pasig – 16
- Mandaluyong – 17
- San Juan – 15
- Manila – 30
- Pasay – 34
- Makati – 25
- Paranaque – 15
- Las Pinas – 18
- Muntinlupa – 17
- Taguig – 20
- Pateros – 10
- Quezon City – 40
The Bureau of Fire Protection, another attached agency of the DILG, will also deploy an additional 100 uniformed personnel to the NCR contract tracing effort. 60 will be deployed to Quezon City and 40 to Pasay City.
Malaya said that this is in addition to the 300 contact tracers to be deployed by the Metro Manila Development Authority to the cities in the metro. “So, that’s a total of 802 contact tracers from the DILG and 300 from the MMDA. The Metro Manila LGUs are also doing their hiring so we have a sufficient number of CTs to meet our needs,” he said.
In January, the DILG already deployed 2,381 contact tracers to Metro Manila for a six-month contract until June.
Of which, "500 CTs were deployed to Quezon City, 400 to Manila, 255-Caloocan, 35 to Las Piñas, 59 to Makati City, 90 to Malabon, 213 to Marikina, 30 to Mandaluyong, 50 to Muntinlupa, 70 to Navotas, 100 to Valenzuela, 136 to Parañaque, 91 to Pasig, 30 to San Juan, 140 to Taguig, 100 to Pasay, and 52 to Pateros."
'Contact tracing remains strong'
This comes as thousands are being fined, detained, and even arrested across the metro as a result of the uniform curfew and subsequent deployment of police, much like the beginning of the enhanced community quarantine a year ago.
The interior spokesperson claimed that the country’s contact tracing capacity remains to be strong a year into the pandemic. 257,000 contact tracers were deployed nationwide in November, versus the 255,854 today "which is more than sufficient for the country’s needs" according to Malaya.
“Even without the DILG hiring, we already have a sufficient number of contact tracers…There's nothing to worry about,” he said.
He said that the DILG hiring only seeks to augment the local government teams to meet the health department's standards of a 1:800 contact tracer to population ratio.
“With our number of CTs, we have exceeded DOH standard. Per the DOH, the ideal contact tracer to population ratio is 1:800 so to fully cover 108 million Filipinos, we actually need a total of 135,000 contact tracers only,” Malaya said, though it is unclear if the ratio is met within each locality.
Earlier Thursday, the Department of Health recorded 5,290 cases of the coronavirus, marking the seventh straight day that the country reported more than 4,000 additional cases.
It has been 366 days since enhanced community quarantine was first hoisted. The Philippines is still under the world's longest quarantine. — Franco Luna
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