DepEd awaits ‘definitive advisory’ on COVID-19

Published March 7, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Merlina Hernando-Malipot

Following the recent developments regarding the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country, the Department of Education (DepEd) on Saturday assured that it is “ready to implement all necessary proportionate response” to the latest reports upon receipt of the “definitive advisory” from inter-agency task force.

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

Issuing a statement late Saturday afternoon, DepEd said that it “will await the definitive advisory” of the inter-agency task force for the management of emerging infectious diseases which is expected to meet on Monday.

In the meantime, DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones is “seeking guidance” from Department of Health (DOH) on the conduct of two major national events scheduled next week: the National Schools Press Conference (NSPC) in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan and National Festival of Talents (NFOT) in Ilagan City, Isabela to be participated by hundreds of students and teachers.

Briones is asking DOH to allow the NSPC and NFOT – from March 7 to 13 inclusive of travel – to “proceed under the circumstances that the participants are already on travel of at the venue, with observance of heightened precaution.”

Earlier, the DOH confirmed local transmission of COVID-19 in the country and raises alert level to Code Red, sub-level 1. It also recommended the declaration of “national public health emergency” which was reportedly “agreed upon” by President Duterte according to Senator Bong Go.

Class suspensions

Meanwhile, some local government units (LGUs) such as Navotas and Cainta have already declared suspension of classes at all levels in both public and private schools next week.

DepEd, in its Memo No. 21 series of 2020 or the Second Set of Policy Directives of the DepEd Task Force COVID-19 and reiterated in its latest directive or the Fourth Set of Policy Guidelines (DM no. 31 s. of 2020), noted that local officials are allowed to declare suspension of classes as a preventive measure against the spread of the novel coronavirus – especially in areas where there are confirmed cases of the COVID-19.

In its existing guidelines, DepEd has already cited conditions when can classes be suspended by the school principal, division superintendent and/or regional director. Based on the DepEd DM No. 21 series of 2020, regional directors, school division superintendents (SDSs), and school heads “are authorized to suspend classes” based on several conditions.

DepEd said that its local officials – in coordination with their respective LGUs and health authorities – may declare class suspension if “one school has confirmed one positive case” of COVID-19 and “if two or more schools in one city or municipality have a confirmed a positive case” of COVID-19. “The SDSs can declare the suspension of classes in the affected schools and adjacent areas or, depending on the local situation, in the entire city or municipality,” DepEd noted.

DepEd added that the SDSs can declare the suspension of classes if “there is a community-level transmission in a city or municipality or several cities or municipalities.”

Likewise, classes can also be suspended “if there is a community level transmission in two or more provinces.” In this case, the RDs “can declare the suspension of classes in the affected provinces or, depending on the local situation, in the entire region.”

Continued monitoring of suspected cases

Meanwhile, DepEd continues to monitor learners and personnel for possible cases of COVID-19. Based on the summary of referred suspected cases as cited in its COVID-19 Situational Report No. 36 as of March 6, DepEd is monitoring two (2) DepEd learners, one (1) child, one (1) supervisor, one (1) non-teaching personnel and eight (8) teachers who are currently under the mandatory 14-day self-quarantine.

As of March 4, DepEd reported that one (1) non-teaching personnel in Calapan – who has travel history from South Korea – is under monitoring despite exhibiting “no signs and symptoms.” A Grade 10 learner in Calapan – who has travel history from Singapore – is also under self-quarantine. The learner, according to the City Health Office, does not exhibit any signs and symptoms of COVID-19.

DepEd is still monitoring 8 teachers, 1 supervisor and 1 DepEd learner and 1 child in Dipolog City who are currently on a mandatory 14-day quarantine since arrival from South Korea on Feb. 26.

While the said learner and DepEd personnel have “no signs and symptoms” of COVID-19, they were ordered by the Division Office to “self-quarantine.” DepEd noted that “some of them took the Manila-Dipolog air travel while some landed in Cebu and travelled via ship to Dipolog.” The public was alerted alerted due to “non-compliance in travel protocol” of the personnel in Dipolog.