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Coast Guard receives two helicopters

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Health Secretary Francisco Duque III

DOH to hire 136,000 contact tracers

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The Department of Health (DOH) will hire 136,000 people as contact tracers to boost the efforts in the country's fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

"Our estimate is that 136,000 contact tracers, more or less that might be needed, and that would depend of course on the amount we are willing to pay," Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua, acting director-general of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), said in the hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III later added that P11.7 billion would be needed to finance the contact tracing.

"The contact tracers, at 1-to-800 population, we'll be needing about 130,000 [people], and assuming we pay them each P30,000 a month," Duque said.

"And we keep them to do contact tracing for at least three months, all told, the budget for that is about P11.7 billion," he added.

He said, however, that there would be certain qualifications needed to be hired as a contact tracer.

"They need to be able to communicate well because contact tracing is going to the communities, to the families, and it's not easy to do contact tracing. Actually, they need a [whole] set of skills, knowledge, and competency," he said, speaking partly in Filipino.

Chua, meanwhile, said that NEDA had already laid out a wage subsidy proposal that could be converted to a cash-for-work program to cover the contact tracers.

"So upon confirmation with DOH, we could present details on that, but we are ready to support one million cash-for-work beneficiaries," Chua said.

Previously, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said his department was ready to finance the training of contact tracers who would be hired from among those who got laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"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.

As of this writing, the Philippines has 12,942 confirmed cases, with 2,843 recoveries and 837 deaths.

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