Magalong admits contact tracing in PH still ‘weak’

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10


Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 20) -- Almost 10 months after the Philippines confirmed its first case of coronavirus infection, contact tracing in the country is still “weak,” Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong admitted Friday.

Magalong, who is also the contact tracing czar, noted that based on data, the Philippines is only able to identify at least seven contacts per coronavirus-infected person when the ideal contact tracing ratio should be 1:37 for urban areas, and 1:30 for rural communities.

The country's COVID-19 tally of cases rose on Friday to 415,067 with 1,639 new cases, according to the Department of Health. The death toll also climbed to 8,025 with 27 more fatalities.

Magalong said in a briefing that one of the main reasons contract tracing in the country is perceived as weak -- an observation made by the World Health Organization -- is because some local governments still manually encode data.

“There is no system. There is no proper encoding,” the contract tracing czar pointed out.

He said to help address this issue, they are now coming up with a uniform data collection tool that is compatible with digital platforms used to track COVID-19 cases and their contacts.

Senator Sonny Angara, the sponsor of the Department of Interior and Local Government’s proposed budget for 2021, said earlier this week there are 257,000 contact tracers in the country, but only 55 percent of them are “capacitated.”

Magalong said having 135,000 contact tracers to support contact tracing efforts is enough, noting it is “the most sufficient number.”

But he underscored the need to look for a funding source to pay for their services until 2021, as he noted the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2 only allows the release of budget for the salary of 50,000 contact tracers until December this year. The law is set to expire on December 19.

According to the DILG guidelines, contact tracers are considered as contractual workers, earning a minimum of P18,784 per month.