Duterte again thumbs down face-to-face classes due to Delta variant

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte again rejected proposals to begin a limited run of face-to-face school classes, citing concerns over the more transmissible Delta COVID-19 variant.

"Regarding face-to-face [classes], I think I am not inclined to agree with you. I'm sorry but I cannot gamble on the health of the children," said Duterte, addressing Education Secretary Leonor Briones, during a meeting on Monday, June 21.

Briones was set to present plans to finally resume face-to-face classes in places with low COVID-19 transmissions, even saying her department had identified 1,900 schools to implement the trial.

But she said that after hearing doctors invited to the meeting to discuss the Delta variant, she now agreed with Duterte's decision and has "withdrawn" the proposal.

"We are withdrawing our request in light of your decision and we accept fully your decision which is a very well-informed decision, if I may say so," said the education chief.

Duterte reinstated mandatory face shield use in outdoor areas also due to concerns over the more transmissible Delta variant first found in India.

Since the start of pandemic lockdowns in March, students and teachers all over the country have adapted to remote learning set-ups. Many groups and lawmakers have said the government was not prepared for this teaching method. More criticism was heaped on DepEd for erroneous learning modules.

Duterte previously said he would only green light physical classes if vaccines were widely available in the country. So far, only 2.1 million Filipinos have received their second dose, or around two percent of the country's population. ā€“ Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.