By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate committee on basic education, arts and culture has urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to put schools on alert and ensure that precautionary measures are in place as the country deals with the possible entry of the new coronavirus strain.
While there are no confirmed cases of the 2019-nCoV in the Philippines yet, Gatchalian said schools should exhaust all measures from information dissemination to intensified sanitary measures to keep students safe, as well as school employees and workers.
“Sa ating pangambang makapasok itong bagong coronavirus sa ating bansa, mabuti nang maging sigurado tayo dahil ang isang kumpirmadong kaso ay maaaring maikalat sa iba (With our fear this new coronavirus could enter the country, it is best that we are prepared because one confirmed case can spread to others),” said Gatchalian.
Gatchalian added that schools should have protocols in place if they identify students displaying flu-like symptoms.
He also said schools should emphasize preventive measures and practice good hygiene such as frequent handwashing, observance of cough etiquette, distancing one’s self from people with respiratory problems, and proper cooking of food, to name a few.
The new coronavirus has already struck 222 individuals across neighboring China, Japan, South Korea, and Thailand. Only recently, a five-year-old boy who flew to Cebu City from Wuhan, China is suspected of having the 2019-nCoV and is now under observation.
Health authorities said the child is currently stable but has shown flu-like symptoms such as cough, throat irritation, and fever.
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that result in a range of illnesses from the common cold to more severe diseases, including the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-related Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-related Coronavirus (SARS-CoV).
The 5-year old boy, at first, tested negative for MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM). However, he tested positive for an unidentified coronavirus. A specimen from the child is sent to Australia to identify the coronavirus strain.
On the other hand, the Department of Health (DOH) and the other agencies should be prepared with an emergency response plan to contain an outbreak should there be one, Sen. Nancy Binay said.
Binay has filed Senate Resolution No. 293 which seeks a Senate inquiry aimed at determining the appropriate measures and necessary funding requirements to ensure quick and efficient government response to address a possible outbreak.
“It might be best for the DOH to review the protocols in place and check if the necessary people are prepared to implement these if needed,” Binay said.
“Preemptive measures will always the better option. Kailangan natin paghandaan na dahil actionable ang impormasyong hawak ng DOH (We need to be prepared for this because the DOH holds an information that is actionable),” she added.
“We must act immediately to monitor reports of the disease or sightings, and abate the possibility of an outbreak,” the senator stressed.