By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
The Department of Education (DepEd) on Wednesday announced that it will allow its local officials to declare suspension of classes as a preventive measure against the spread of the novel coronavirus – especially in areas where there are confirmed cases of the COVID-19.
DepEd Undersecretary Alain Pascua said that the agency has issued DepEd Memo No. 21 series of 2020 or the Second Set of Policy Directives of the DepEd Task Force nCoV (COVID-19).
Pascua noted that among the salient features of the newly-issued memo are the “conditions when classes can be suspended by the school principal, division superintendent and/or regional director.”
Signed by Education Secretary Leonor Briones dated February 12, the latest directive on COVID-19 cites that regional directors, school division superintendents (SDSs), and school heads “are authorized to suspend classes” based on several conditions.
DepEd said that its local officials – in coordination with their respective local government units (LGUs) and health authorities – may declare class suspension if “one school has confirmed one positive case” of COVID-19 and “if two or more schools in one city or municipality have a confirmed a positive case” of COVID-19.
“The SDSs can declare the suspension of classes in the affected schools and adjacent areas or, depending on the local situation, in the entire city or municipality,” DepEd noted.
DepEd noted the SDSs can declare the suspension of classes if “there is a community-level transmission in a city or municipality or several cities or municipalities.”
Likewise, classes can also be suspended “if there is a community level transmission in two or more provinces.” In this case, the RDs “can declare the suspension of classes in the affected provinces or, depending on the local situation, in the entire region.”
DepEd also directed all regional offices and schools division offices to report all class suspensions to the COVID-10 to its Disaster Risk Reduction Management Services (DRRMS).
Meanwhile, Pascua noted that all policy directives and measures contained in DepEd Memorandum No. 15 entitled First Set of Policy Directives of the DepEd Task Force nCoV are “sustained.”
Several measures were reiterated and further elaborated such as the travel measures and restrictions as stipulated in Enclosure No. 2 to DM 15, s. 2020 which remains in effect.
“Furthermore, all personnel and learners who decide to proceed with their scheduled personal travels to countries identified to have confirmed cases or persons under investigation for 2019-nCoV for the month of February shall be subject to mandatory self-quarantine for 14 days from the date of arrival in the Philippines,” Pascua noted.
Pascua also confirmed that the suspension of all national and regional activities involving learners and/or teachers “requiring travel and congregation of various schools, divisions, and/or regions, and of all off-campus activities for the month of February 2020,” – as stipulated in Enclosure No. 2 to DM 15, s. 2020 – “remains in effect.”
Data shown in the World Health Organization (WHO) Emergency Dashboard on COVID-19 revealed that there are 45,171 confirmed cases and 1,115 reported deaths in 25 countries as of Feb. 12, 10:00 (CET).
In the Philippines, data from Department of Health (DOH) COVID-19 tracker as of Feb. 12, 12:00 noon showed that there are 238 persons under investigation (PUIs) currently admitted in hospitals for possible infection.
To date, Philippines has three confirmed cases of COVID-19 involving Chinese nationals from Wuhan, China – the epicenter of the deadly virus.
The country has also recorded one death due to COVID-19, a 44-year old Chinese man while the two others – a 38-year-old woman and 60-year-old woman who are both Chinese – have reportedly recovered from the respiratory infection.