INTERIOR and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Ano said that with the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, the government needs an additional 50,000 contact tracers from the present 85,000 (CTs) to meet the World Health Organization (WHO)-recommended ideal ratio of one contact tracer for every 800 people.
Ano appealed to Congress for the allocation of P5 billion out of the P162 billion fund to be created under the Bayanihan to Recover as One bill for the hiring and training of more virus tracers to prevent further transmission of the dreaded disease.
According to the DILG chief, time is of the essence and government has to act with dispatch given the growing COVID-19 crisis.
“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.
In a letter to Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Ano proposed the hiring and training of qualified and competent persons to serve as members of contact tracing teams starting September this year with a corresponding budget requirement of P5 billion.
At present, contact tracing is being done by more than 7,000 teams composed of 85,000 contact tracers.
“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.
The current number, he added, cannot meet the recommendations of Contact Tracing Czar Mayor Benjie Magalong of a 1:37 patient to close contacts ratio 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.