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ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – National Action Plan on COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez on Tuesday, February 15, said the government sees face-to-face classes resuming in all levels by August.
“As long as the health protocols are followed, social distance spacing, and the ventilation in classrooms are fixed ahead, the classes may start in the new normal,” he said.
Galvez was in Zamboanga City on Tuesday to check its vaccination sites, and see how it has started inoculating children, five to 11 years old.
He said Education Secretary Leonor Briones reported to the COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force that the Department of Education (DepEd) recorded no infection among children who participated in face-to-face classes in schools pilot-tested.
Galvez also said that of the more than 10,000 children who first got inoculated, only four children showed “very, very minor side effects.”
By August, the government aims to vaccinate 100% of all students, teachers, and other school workers under the DepEd, he said.
But Galvez said the minimum public health standards set by the government such as wearing face masks and physical distancing would remain even when the face-to-face classes begin.
He said there was also a need to check on classroom ventilation concerns.
Galvez said he was satisfied with the vaccination rollout in Zamboanga City where around 80% of residents eligible for jabs have been inoculated.
Local officials said the rate of vaccination was moving fast that they expect to run out of COVID-19 vaccines by Thursday, February 17.
Galvez lauded Zamboanga Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco for the fast vaccination rollout in the city.
Department of Health (DOH) regional director Joshua Brillantes said the government also succeeded in inoculating more than 70% of its target population throughout the Zamboanga Peninsula region.
Galvez, however, said he was worried about the neighboring Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) where the vaccination rate was very low.
He said the BARMM should ramp up the campaign and prioritize the elderly who are the most vulnerable.
“Many of those who died are 50 years old and older, and unvaccinated,” he said. – Rappler.com
Frencie Carreon is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship