A Department of Education official has sought to assuage the fears of parents and teachers on the safety of students sharing learning modules, saying that proper disinfection of the materials would ensure that they do become coronavirus transmitters.
Education Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio gave the assurance as the possibility of sharing the modules has been raised due to the lack of the eduational materials. (READ: Is it safe? Teachers fear exposure to coronavirus in modular learning setup)
San Antonio said during a Rappler Talk interview on Friday, September 25, that "if the materials are properly disinfected and then the protocols for disinfection are followed properly, the materials would be very safe."
"We understand the possibility [that] your modules [can be] transmitters of the virus. Maybe there are adverse reports because there’s one place that UV light wasn't properly used," San Antonio said in a mix of English and Filipino.
In a virtual press briefing on September 16, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that while hospitals have been using UV light for disinfection procedures for sometime, there was not enough evidence to support UV light as an effective agent against eliminating the coronavirus.
Improper use of UV light may also cause skin burns and eye irritation. (READ: DOH warns public against improper use of UV light for disinfection)
During the Rappler Talk interview, San Antonio said that aside from using UV light, parents and students can expose the learning materials to direct sunlight upon receiving them.
"Kung talagang ayaw ng UV light kasi nga may mga added risk, puwede namang kung maaraw, ibilad (If you don't want to use UV light due to added risk, if it's sunny, expose the materials to sunlight). It will just have to take extra days.... By the time the the modules arrive at the hands of the learners, natapos na ‘yung 14 days na sinasabing lifespan ng virus (the 14-day supposed lifespan of the virus has lapsed)," San Antonio said.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said in a news release that "based on data from lab studies on COVID-19 and what we know about similar respiratory diseases, it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes."
Professor Marilen Balolong, a microbiologist and scientist at the University of the Philippines Manila, told Rappler in a previous interview that a recent study revealed that the virus could remain viable for up to 72 hours on plastics, 48 hours on stainless steel, 24 hours on cardboard, and 4 hours on copper. (WATCH: EXPLAINER: Can you contract coronavirus disease just by touching surfaces?)
DepEd earlier said that students would only have 1:1 modules for the first and second quarters of the academic year, and may share learning materials for the 3rd and 4th quarters due to lack of sufficient funds.
Education Undersecretary Anne Sevilla earlier told reporters that DepEd needs P35 billion to P40 billion for the printing of the learning modules for the 3rd and 4th quarters of the coming school year to achieve a 1:1 module-to-student ratio.
Sevilla said that according to DepEd estimates, P35 billion is needed for the printing of learning modules for millions of public school students, but only P15 billion has been allocated under the agency's proposed proposed P606.5 billion budget for 2021, while P5 billion will come from unprogrammed funds.
During the House budget hearing on September 15, lawmakers sought an additional P10 billion in the proposed 2021 budget for the DepEd to fund the printing of the learning modules so students would not have to share them. (READ: Additional P10B in 2021 budget sought for printing of DepEd's learning modules)
DepEd shifted to distance learning for the coming school year to comply with President Rodrigo Duterte's directive for schools to delay face-to-face classes until a coronavirus vaccine becomes available. Local experts said that in a best case scenario, the earliest that the country may have access to a vaccine is the second quarter of 2021.
As of Friday, a total of 24,633,586 public and private schools have signed up for school opening. This is 3 million lower than last year's 27.7 million enrollees.