Some 15,000 contact tracers will be rehired, the Department of the Interior and Local Government said Monday, as authorities guard against the spread of a new COVID-19 variant.
The number is roughly a third of the nearly 50,000 contact tracers hired last year even though the new SARS-CoV-2 variant, known as B.1.1.7, appears to be more contagious. The contracts of contact-tracers hired in 2020 expired in December.
DILG spokesperson Usec. Jonathan Malaya cited "budget limitations" in the rehiring process, suggesting that the department could hire more once additional funds come in.
"Much as we would like to continue the services of all the 50,000 [contact tracers] hired in 2020, we need to have a more rational number of contact tracers and work within the available budget allotted to the Department," Malaya said in a statement.
A P1.9 billion budget was approved by the Department of Budget and Management for the rehiring of 15,000 contact tracers this year according to the DILG.
Contact tracing is among the pillars of the Philippines' COVID0-19 pandemic response strategy along with testing, and treatment.
Over the weekend, the country breached the 500,000 COVID-19 cases milestone after confirming 1,895 infections on Sunday.
Just days before, the Department of Health confirmed the country's first case of the B.1.1.7 virus variant which originated from the UK. This resulted in a ban on arrivals from similarly affected countries until the end of January.