Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III on Wednesday said the govern­ment was planning to fund the training of contact tracers to be hired from among those who lost their jobs as a result of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the consequent lockdowns that forced major economic hubs to limit operations.

During Monday’s meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disea­ses aired on PTV-4 the next day, Dominguez said the government “should also hire contact tracers en masse to boost our efforts to stop transmission and defeat COVID-19 while providing jobs.”

The Duterte administration’s chief economic manager said, however, the government could not just pluck out contact tracers from those who lost their employment. They would be needing technical know-how, he said.Many businesses either closed shop or limited operations at the start of the lockdown, resulting in 1.5 million Filipinos losing their jobs.

“If we hire these guys to do contact tracing, which we are having a very hard time [doing] … I think we can provide good jobs to people,” Dominguez said.

He said it would sometimes take one contact tracer to determine how far and wide the exposure made by just one single case.

“So we need to hire enough contact tracers to match the numbers we expect that will come with more testing,” he added.

Dominguez said the Phili­ppines could adopt a similar course offered online by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Johns Hopkins University made available for free a class called “COVID-19 Contact Tracing” over online learning platform Coursera. Over 8,200 individuals from around the world have already enrolled.

The six-hour course would “train contact tracers on the principles of the public health strategy many consider critical for slowing the spread of COVID-19,” the university said, noting that contact tracing has helped break infectious disea­ses’ transmission chain in the past.

Dominguez said he would recommend a budget to train potential contract tracers. He could not yet provide how much was needed for the program and how many would be hired.

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