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Legarda: Comprehensive contact tracing, key strategy in COVID-19 response efforts

April 20, 2021

Three-term Senator, now Deputy Speaker, Loren Legarda stressed the importance of effective and efficient contact tracing as a tool to curb further local transmissions and reduce mortality rate of COVID-19 in the country.

“Contact tracing, if properly employed as a preventive strategy, will bolster the country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Contact tracing was effectively implemented during the SARS outbreak in 2003 and the Ebola outbreak in 2014. This may be a laborious process, but this can be a key component in ending the spread of COVID-19 virus,” Legarda said.

“Many countries have successfully employed contact tracing as a cornerstone of their COVID-19 response plans, such as South Korea, Singapore, and Germany. It has its limitations and challenges, but contact tracing is a proven strategy in containing infectious disease outbreaks. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that contact tracing is an essential public health tool that will break chains of transmission when systematically applied,” Legarda added.

“This is why in one of the Cabinet Cluster meetings that I was invited to attend, I recommended the hiring of contact tracers under the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) – Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (DOLE TUPAD) program, particularly in the NCR+bubble areas then. This can also be expanded to other areas where there continue to be high incidence of COVID-19 positive cases,” Legarda added.

Based on information by DOLE, the Department has already coordinated with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) for the hiring of contract tracers to be employed under the TUPAD program. Under Republic Act No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act approved on September 11, 2020, which was co-authored by Legarda, the DILG was tasked to hire contact tracers per local government units.

“We have previously utilized our DOLE TUPAD workers in our COVID-19 intervention, specifically for the clean up, disinfection, and sanitation of their homes and respective communities. Hiring TUPAD workers to take on a more challenging role as contact tracers will not only give our displaced workers a source of income but will also give them the sense of fulfillment that they are doing a crucial job in the country’s fight to curtail the spread of the virus,” Legarda said.

“With proper training and support, adequate resources, and a comprehensive contact tracing plan, this strategy may be our chance for survival. While we may not be as advanced as other countries who used technology as their means of contact tracing, we can employ a uniform and systematic contact tracing system all over the country to have more organized data and assist our contact tracers in gathering significant information faster. Our fight against this unseen enemy is a fight easily won through a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach. Let us work together as one, aiming for a common goal of sustainable and inclusive growth and recovery amid the ongoing pandemic,”Legarda concluded.***