Barangays: no funds for hiring of contact tracers

Majority, if not all, of Catanduanes’ 315 barangays do not have funding allocations for the hiring of a contact tracer as urged by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) recently.
In Memorandum Circular No. 2021-103 issued on Sept. 16, 2021, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año enjoined all local chief executives to strengthen and expand COVID-19 case finding and contract tracing in the barangays.
Barangay captains should deploy at least one contact tracer if the village population is less than 5,000, with those with over 5,000 population to hire an additional tracer.
The DILG recommended that the contact tracer should be a member of the Barangay Health Emergency Response Team (BHERT) as they are expected to have undergone necessary training.
The contact tracers are expected to go house-to-house to identify those who have recently traveled from abroad or other provinces and list down their close contacts.
They will also ask the travelers to report their body temperatures every morning and noon while under 14 days of home isolation and report if they have COVID-19 symptoms.
Wearing a surgical or N95 mask, the contact tracer will visit the resident every day and inquire about their health condition.
If he or she suffers from symptoms, the COVID-19 suspect will be separated from the other house occupants and brought to either a referral center or the hospital. The entire home will be placed in confinement for 14 days.
The DILG stated that for the funding needed for the implementation of the new contact tracing mandate, it will be sourced from the local government unit’s budget, subject to the rules and regulations governing budgeting, expenditure and auditing.
As of last week, 56 contact tracers hired by the DILG are still deployed to the province’s 11 towns, as follows: Virac, 22; San Andres, 5; Bagamanoc, 4; Viga, 4; Pandan, 3; Caramoran, 3; Panganiban, 3; San Miguel, 3; Bato, 3; Baras, 3; Gigmoto, 2.
They are reportedly paid a monthly salary of about P20,000.
If the DILG order mandating the expansion of contract tracing in the barangays is to be followed, the province needs an additional 259 contact tracers plus an additional one for barangay San Isidro Village in Virac as it has a population of 5,459.
SIV barangay chairman Rudy Tolentino, however, disclosed to the Tribune that the barangay has no budget this year for the hiring of even one contact tracer.

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