The Department of Health (DOH) said on Wednesday, December 2, that it was open to resuming face-to-face classes in the Philippines, but only in areas where there is “low to minimal risk” of coronavirus cases.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a virtual press briefing on Wednesday that the DOH can draft guidelines with the Department of Education (DepEd), for the approval of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Duque noted, however, that there is no area in the country that has zero COVID-19 cases in the last 2 to 4 weeks, except for Batanes.
“Depende po ‘yan sa Pangulo kung papahintulutan ito. ‘Yung mga guidelines gagawa tayo jointly with DepEd para kung magkaroon man ng limited face-to-face classes, siguraduhin natin na sa mga lugar na low to minimal risk ang COVID-19 cases,” Duque said.
(It will depend on the President if he will allow this. We will craft guidelines jointly with DepEd should there be limited face-to-face classes in areas with low to minimal risk of COVID-19 cases.)
Duque added that in case Duterte approves the resumption of in-person classes, local hospitals should be ready.
Senators have urged DepEd to consider resuming face-to-face classes, as they expressed apprehensions about whether students, especially those unable to take online classes, are able to retain much from the current modes of remote learning.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones in a press briefing on November 24 said that DepEd was studying the possibility of conducting “limited” face-to-face classes in 2021, given the recent developments on the COVID-19 vaccine.
Briones added that DepEd was preparing a report to get a clearance from the health department and the government coronavirus task force, noting that this would only be done in “absolutely safe areas.”
The DOH earlier described the general situation of COVID-19 cases in the country as “plateauing” nearly 9 months since the pandemic started. Average new cases reported in a single day over the past few weeks have hovered below 2,000.
Experts have repeatedly warned that the public must remain cautious and continue observing minimum health standards such as practicing physical distancing, wearing of face masks, and staying at home if possible, despite relaxation of quarantine measures.
Schools in the country opened in the middle of the pandemic using distance learning – a mix of online learning and modules – following Duterte’s directive to suspend face-to-face classes until a coronavirus vaccine becomes available. – Rappler.com