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‘Critics can’t stop contact tracing’

MJ Blancaflor

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The Department of Health (DoH) will proceed with contact tracing despite some lawmakers’ rejection of the program which will cost the government P11.7 billion just to hire additional personnel to track down possible COVID-19 carriers.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire reiterated that contact tracing efforts would continue despite criticisms from Senators Vicente Sotto III, Panfilo Lacson and Franklin Drilon.

“Contact tracing is an integral part of our overall response strategy to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these developments, it will need to proceed,” Vergeire said.

The Health official added that the DoH has been assisting the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to engage the local government units in contact tracing activities and mobilization of additional personnel.

Vergeire said the DoH is also eyeing to tap the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to aid health care workers in contact tracing efforts.

“The DoH will engage more stakeholders to ensure the continuity of this strategy,” she added.

Sotto, Lacson and Drilon recently asked the DoH to drop its plan of spending billions of pesos for contact tracing, arguing that it should be used for other concerns such as treating COVID-19 patients.

They also said the DoH could utilize mobile applications to identify those who had interactions with COVID-afflicted individuals or to tap barangay health workers and parent-leaders from Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program to carry out contact tracing.

As of 27 May, the government has employed some 38,000 contact tracers, far from the 126,000 benchmark set by the World Health Organization’s for the country to reach the ideal ratio of one tracer for every 800 people.

Malacañang previously said that the government is eyeing to employ jeepney drivers as contact tracers since they have lost their jobs during the implementation of large-scale community quarantines.

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