by Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star), 30 Mar 2021
MANILA, Philippines — To help stop the spread of COVID-19 in communities, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is deploying displaced informal workers as contact tracers.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the government is providing emergency employment to these workers by hiring them under the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers program.
“We need contact tracers, that’s why we told the Department of (the Interior and) Local Government to tap the beneficiaries of the emergency employment program for the job,” Bello said in Filipino in a virtual briefing yesterday.
The number of informal workers to be hired as contact tracers, he added, would depend on the requirement of local government units (LGUs). He assured the public that the program has enough funds to employ the needed number of contact tracers.
Bello noted that the implementation of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila, Cavite, Rizal, Laguna and Bulacan is expected to cause a displacement of workers, especially among the daily wage workers or those employed under the “no work, no pay” scheme.
He also said the ECQ can affect business operations which, in turn, would impact on employment.
Labor Assistant Secretary Dominique Tutay said the ECQ could also impact the overall permanent displacement figure, which already recorded an increase last week.
Prior to ECQ, the DOLE recorded over 71,000 permanent displacements due to retrenchments and closure of establishments.
Meanwhile, Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said the contact tracing apps of LGUs will finally be merged with the StaySafe.ph application as COVID-19 cases continue to increase.
The merger is to begin after app developer Multisys Technology Corp. turns over the StaySafe.ph app to the government.
Local chief executives have been calling for a uniform contact tracing app to make virus containment measures effective.
The cities of Pasig, Mandaluyong, Antipolo and Valenzuela each have their own contact tracing apps but have recently merged their contact tracing systems. This means any quick response code from PasigPass, MandaTrack, Antipolo Bantay COVID-19 and ValTrace are interoperable in any of the four cities.
The merger also linked the contact tracing data bases of the cities, which means the LGUs can determine where an infected or close contact has been even outside their city, although this is still limited to areas covered in the integration.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases first used the StaySafe.ph app in November last year and has also required LGUs to use it.
The DILG earlier said contact tracing efforts have not been efficient despite the presence of over 200,000 contact tracers nationwide, a development it found as a concern considering the growing COVID-19 caseload.
The goal was for one contact tracer to at least gather 30 identified contacts, but the agency previously said what was turning up was only seven contacts per infected person. – Neil Jayson Servallos