The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) today reminded all local government units ( LGUs) to ensure that they have designated at least one contact tracer for every barangay with population not exceeding 5,000 in order to strengthen case finding and contact tracing efforts as part of the ongoing pilot implementation of the new alert level system in Metro Manila.
"We want to be more aggressive in our case finding and contact tracing efforts considering the fast spread of the Delta variant. Dahil dito, importante na mayroon ng karagdagang contact tracer sa bawat barangay para mapabilis ang pagtutunton at maalalayan ang mga positive cases at close contacts," said DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año.
He said that the barangay contact tracer should be in addition to the contract tracers coming from the LGU. He said that the DILG is prepared to conduct training for the additional barangay contact tracers through the Local Government Academy or the Department of Health.
“Mainam na ang contact tracer ay magmula sa miyembro ng BHERT (Barangay Health Emergency Response Team) ng barangay dahil inaasahan na sila ay nakadalo sa mga angkop na pagsasanay at kilala nila ang mga tao sa kanilang lugar,” he said.
Año said that for barangays with population of more than 5,000, additional contact tracers may be hired or assigned by the LGUs in order to ensure that there are people on the ground who are monitoring coronavirus cases and their contacts.
Per Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) guidelines, NCR is placed under Alert level 4 as COVID-19 case counts are high and/or increasing with the metro’s total bed utilization rate and intensive care unit utilization rate at high utilization. Granular level lockdown or micro-level quarantine may also be declared by mayors for areas identified as "critical zones" by the LGUs regardless of alert Level.
In Memorandum Circular 2021-103, the DILG Secretary said the responsibilities of contact tracers include doing house-to-house visits to find out new arrivals from the provinces or other countries and to list down their close contacts.
He said the contact tracers should also advise the new arrivals to be on home quarantine, get their temperature, and be on the lookout for COVID-19 symptoms for the next 14 days.
"Kapag may lumabas na sintomas, dapat agad na maihiwalay ang taong iyon sa mga kasamahan niya sa bahay dahil siya ay itinuturing na COVID-19 suspect. He or she should be immediately brought to the referral center of the DOH or to the hospital for further examination and treatment," he said.
Año said it is important for LGUs, with the help of the BHERTs and contact tracers, to reduce the time for case detection to isolation as well as to improve vaccine coverage to lower COVID-19 cases.
"Muli rin po kaming nakikiusap sa publiko na ipraktis ang minimum public health standards (MPHS) at mag-isolate na at makipag-ugnayan sa inyong LGU kapag may sintomas kayong nararamdaman. Tayo rin ang patuloy na mahihirapan at mapeperwisyo kapag hindi tayo sumusunod sa MPHS," he said.
Some 130,178 contact tracers are now deployed nationwide to help in contact tracing activities and cater to the country's 103.5-million population. All contact tracers are under the supervision of their respective City/Municipal Health Office.
According to Año, the current number is generally sufficient but with the increasing threat of Delta variant, more aggressive case finding and contact tracing measures are direly needed as the primary step in the Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat-Reintegrate (PDITR) strategy against COVID-19.
With more vaccines coming in, Año also urged LGUs to serve as many eligible recipients as possible to fast-track the mass vaccination program. He also advised the public to coordinate with their LGUs for their vaccination schedules.
“Napakalaki ang maitutulong ng pagpapabakuna para mas mapababa natin ang kaso at makatawid na tayo sa new normal,” he said.