Following the deployment of more than 69,000 contact tracers, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) directs all 42,045 barangays nationwide to create their own contact tracing teams (CTT) in a bid to further boost the country’s contact tracing capabilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año says that as more communities are exposed to coronavirus transmissions, it is imperative to have contact tracers coming from the same community due to their familiarity and kinship with the residents of the barangay.
“We are in for the long haul until a vaccine is developed at kailangan nating labanan ang virus na ito mula sa mga pamayanan. CTTs in barangays will be the first responders to ensure that all residents, especially the ones who are infected together with their immediate families, are monitored and accounted for,” Año says.
A former Armed Forces Chief, Año says that CTTs in the barangays are likened to “soldiers who are engaging in a battle with the complete understanding of the terrain.” He said that having contact tracers in the barangays will boost the country’s anti-COVID campaign.
“Itong mga CTTs na ito ay mula din naman sa kani-kanilang mga barangay kaya mas kilala nila ang mga tao sa pamayanan at magkakaroon sila ng mas magandang pagkakataon na matutukan at mabantayan ang mga kaso sa kanilang komunidad,” he says. “Siyempre, kilala nila ang mga tao, kabisado nila ang lugar kaya mas magiging madali para sa kanila,” he adds.
He says that they have tapped the Local Government Academy and the Philippine Public Safety College in training all contact tracers which will be organized by the Barangay.
He points out that with more than 42,000 barangays in the country, having CTTs in each one will guarantee that close contacts of a COVID-19 patient will be accounted for, therefore, lessening the possibility of further contagion.
In an advisory released by the DILG yesterday, July 21, 2020, DILG Secretary Año directs barangays to create their own CTTs “to conduct tracing for all persons with known exposure to a COVID-19 patient.” CTTs are likewise expected to ensure that said patients are strictly observing appropriate quarantine measures or are transferred to government-managed isolation facility, if needed.
CTTs of the barangays shall also monitor the status of probable, suspected and confirmed cases including family members with known contact to a confirmed case to mitigate the spread of the virus and report these to the Municipal/City Health Office.
Año also recently reported that 69,098 contact tracers assigned to 5,215 CCTs nationwide are now deployed and actively aiding tracking down and managing close contacts, reducing the spread of infection, and offering diagnostic, counselling and treatment to confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Keeping communities COVID-19-free
Meanwhile, in the same advisory, the DILG Chief directs local government units (LGUs), through their barangay health workers, to conduct house visitations and ensure that COVID-19 patients who do not qualify for home quarantine are properly referred to an appropriate health facility.
“Mahigpit po ang ating paalala na hindi na po hinihikayat ang pagsasagawa ng home quarantine kaya po we are directing our barangay health workers na tiyaking ang mga kabahayang hindi kayang magsagawa ng home quarantine ay madala sa mga Ligtas Center,” he explains.
A COVID-19 patient is only allowed to practice home quarantine if he has a separate room where the patient can be confined and isolated; if the patient has his own comfort room for hygienic purposes and avoid spread of the virus through touching of shared items; and if he is not living with people who are vulnerable to COVID-19 such as senior citizens and those with existing comorbidities, among others.
Año further says that LGUs must coordinate with the Philippine National Police (PNP) to ensure the cooperation of all persons or entities identified as having a notifiable disease. “As previously pointed out already, the PNP’s presence is only for support sa paglilipat ng mga pasyente sa mga Ligtas Center.”