DepEd may issue precautionary measures amid new nCoV threat

By Merlina Hernando-Malipot 

With the looming threat of the 2019 novel coronavirus in the country, the Department of Education (DepEd) is mulling the possibility of issuing its own advisories to schools to help ensure its students and teachers will be adequately protected.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones (DepEd / MANILA BULLETIN) Education Secretary Leonor Briones

Education Secretary Leonor Briones, in an interview, said that DepEd was closely coordinating with Department of Health (DOH) to help assure that its learners and teachers will be safe amid the threat of the new nCoV.

“Since the health area is under DOH, we refer to them for advisories but it the problem becomes more serious, then we create our own special advisories,” Briones said.

When it comes to health issues and other related concerns, Briones said that the DepEd and the DOH work closely. “We always coordinate with DOH because they give us the advisories on health,” she explained.

In the coming weeks, Briones said that the two agencies might set up a meeting to discuss possible courses of action with regard the new developments in the 2019 nCov. Earlier, also DepEd urged learners and their parents, as well as guardians, to follow the advice issued by DOH on how to avoid getting viral infection.

DepEd, on its Facebook page, issued a reminder to millions of learners and stakeholders on sanitation practices following reports on 2019 nCoV. "Pinapaalalahanan ang mga bata at mga magulang na sundin ang mga sumusunod na payo mula sa Department of Health upang makaiwas sa viral infection," DepEd said.

DepEd is considered the largest bureaucracy with almost 900,000 personnel. There are also over 27 million students in both public and private schools in School Year (SY) 2019-2020.

The DOH said that the country remains 2019 nCoV free since there was still no case of the new viral illness recorded. Despite this, both the Health and Education departments urged the public to focus on hygiene and sanitation practices such as regular washing of hands, proper hydration, avoiding contact with live animals or people who show signs and symptoms of flu - among others.

Earlier, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian also urged DepEd to put schools on "alert status" to help ensure that students are protected against the new nCoV. Despite DOH's confirmation that the country remains free of the new nCoV, he underscored the need for schools to step up its efforts when preventive measures are concerned.

“We must be even more vigilant with the entry of one confirmed case that can spread to others,” Gatchalian, who also serves as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, said. In particular, he asked DepEd to instruct schools to strengthen its information campaign on the new nCoV and to intensify its sanitation practices.

Based on the reports, the new nCoV has killed at least 26 people and is affecting hundreds of individuals in China where it has originated. Cases of the new coronavirus strain was also confirmed in the United States, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Thailand.