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DILG welcomes Congress allotting budget for hiring of contact tracers

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Friday welcomed the move of Congress to appropriate P5 billion from the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2's P165.5 billion budget for the hiring of contact tracers.

In a press statement, DILG chief Secretary Eduardo Año expressed gratitude to lawmakers as the additional funds would allow the government to enforce aggressive contact tracing, active case surveillance, and case finding which are the pillars of the National Action Plan against COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is really good news because we can now hire a maximum of 50,000 more contact tracers to meet the WHO recommended ratio of one contact tracer for every 800 people," Año said.

"They will supplement the 85,000 contact tracers we now have and allow us to double the number of contact tracers in LGUs with rising cases, especially in Metro Manila,” he added.

According to Año, the DILG will be ready to recruit the additional contact tracers as soon as the funds are released to them by the Department of Budget and Management, noting that aggressive contact tracing, active community involvement and strict quarantine enforcement are the priorities of the agency.

Early this month, the DILG said the Philippines has over 7,000 contact tracing teams with a total of more than 85,000 contact tracers.

DILG spokesperson Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said additional contact tracers will be trained by the DILG’s Local Government Academy in utilizing the “cognitive interviewing technique," which is similar to the questioning technique employed by the police.

“Our LGA and PPSC has developed 4 modules in our training program and we will ensure that all those hired will be trained,” Malaya said.

Malaya also noted that technology should be utilized in contact tracing just like in other countries and that manual contact tracing must be done hand in hand with the use of digital technology.

“All countries use both – manual and digital technology. There are also limitations in just using technology because not everybody has a smartphone which is what is required in digital contact tracing," Malaya said.

"Even those with smartphones, compatibility of Android with IOS is another problem. The phone owner should also always update the status of his health which needs cooperation from users,” he added.

The Senate has ratified the reconciled version of the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2 in a bid to facilitate economic recovery as the Philippines continues its battle against COVID-19.

Once passed into law, Bayanihan 2 will be effective until December 19, 2020 since it is considered an "emergency measure."—Anna Felicia Bajo/AOL, GMA News