823 students, DepEd staff contract COVID-19

A total of 823 students and Department of Education (DepEd) personnel have contracted the coronavirus disease as of August 23. 

Director Ronilda Co of the DepEd Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council presented the case bulletin during a virtual press briefing on Monday, August 24. 

Of the total, 297 are students, 340 are teachers, and 186 are non-teaching personnel. Co said that of the total confirmed cases, 310 are active cases, 23 have died, and 490 have recovered.

What assistance can teachers get?

Teachers' anxieties over the opening of school only worsened when DepEd said it has no budget allotted for the treatment of teachers who contract COVID-19. (READ: No budget for treatment of teachers with coronavirus – DepEd official)

In a virtual press briefing on August 10, Education Undersecretary Anne Sevilla said that what has been allowed to be charged to DepEd funds are the supplies needed for compliance with minimum health standards. 

"COVID medication and treatment funding budgets are not present or appropriated in the existing budget of DepEd. And I think it is true for all national government agencies," said Sevilla.

She then clarified in a Viber message to reporters the following day that her statement was a "specific reply" to a question about the availability of funding under the DepEd budget for the treatment of teachers who contract COVID-19.

"It is only [the] DOH (Department of Health) which has a mandate to use government funds for hospitalization and treatment.... Even if we want to assist and support our employees, we don’t have the budget [to] cover and authority to use DepEd budget for such," Sevilla said.

She, however, noted that all government employees, including DepEd employees, are covered by PhilHealth. But PhilHealth has been the subject of massive scrutiny after allegations of corruption recently surfaced following the resignation of one of its officers. (READ: PhilHealth execs misspent, stole P15 billion, says resigned anti-fraud official)

DepEd employees who opted to be treated in private hospitals, according to Sevilla, also got DepEd assistance – "not from the government funds but from the personal contributions and collective efforts of the DepEd family."

DepEd said that the National Educators Academy of the Philippines (NEAP) office in Marikina City is currently designated as the temporary treatment and monitoring facility of the DepEd Central Office.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones herself contracted the virus in April and has since recovered

Below are the DepEd protocols in responding to COVID-19 cases:

Schools in the Philippines are set to reopen on October 5, using the distance learning approach. (READ: DepEd moves school opening to October 5, 2020)

As of Sunday, the Philippines recorded 189,601 cases of COVID-19 – the highest in Southeast Asia – and registered 2,998 deaths and 131,367 recoveries. – Rappler.com

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.