COVID-19 prevention, control and mitigation in schools and communities (Part II)

ucationBy Dr. Rex Casiple

On March 17, 2020, the number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines increased to 187 from 140 (34%) and the number of confirmed deaths increased to 14 from 12 (17%) on March 16, 2020.

On March 19, 2020 the cases further increased to 202 (8%) and the number of confirmed deaths increased to 17 (21%).

With this, I salute to our medical doctors and health workers. They are our frontline army now in this World War against the coronavirus.

Classes in Metro Manila shall continue to be suspended until April 14, 2020. The community quarantine was imposed over the entire National Capital Region (NCR) beginning March 15, 2020 to April 14, 2020 as all higher education institutions (HEIs) should abide by the directives of the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in the imposition of general and enhanced community quarantine in their respective jurisdictions.

Per advisories from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), public and private HEIs in Metro Manila that are still using the old academic calendar with the school year ending in March or in April were required to move or cancel their graduation ceremonies in compliance with the restriction on mass gatherings.

State colleges and universities (SUCs), local colleges and universities (LUCs) and some private HEIs that have shifted their academic calendar or whose school semester starts in January do not need to postpone or cancel graduation but may need to adjust their semester as needed, adopt different delivery modes of teaching, and provide makeup classes to compensate for the 30-day class suspension.

All public and private HEIs should ensure that employees who are part of the skeletal force observe social distancing and practice precautionary measures directed by the DOH.

Community quarantine was declared in many parts of the country. Domestic travel in air, sea, and land to and from Metro Manila was temporarily restricted during the community quarantine period.  Hence some students, faculty, and staff opted to go home in their respective places outside of Metro Manila.

In line with this, considering the health crisis in the country caused by COVID-19, CHED advised the HEIs to exercise leniency on their policies concerning student absences and student leaves. As a result of the community quarantine students who are absent for 30 days should not be dropped from their classes.

Students who are sick of respiratory symptoms should contact a health professional immediately. Students who may have close contact with persons with COVID-19 must do self-quarantine at home for 14 days. Any student who will go outside of his or her home is advised to wear a mask.

In other regions outside NCR, local government units have the discretion to suspend classes within its respective jurisdiction provided that, measures and arrangements are in place for the students to comply with their class requirements.

When classes are suspended HEIs should inform the students of the importance of staying in their homes. HEIs must work and coordinate with their local governments if they need to suspend classes, adjust their semesters or cancel other events within their universities and colleges.

Furthermore, CHED advises all HEIs especially those outside of the NCR to discourage mass gathering; canceling or postponing big group activities and events; suspends students’ internship or OJT programs abroad and negotiate with their partner institutions to adjust their program until the situation is under better control; suspend the participation of students, staff and faculty in seminars, workshops, and other events, especially those that involve travel outside the province;  and continue to remind students, staff, faculty, and administrators to practice personal preventive measures such as proper hand hygiene, cough etiquette, and social distancing.

(To be continued)