By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
In light of recent developments related to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the Department of Education (DepEd) on Monday called on schools to ensure “heightened precautions” are strictly observed.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones released DepEd memorandum no. 34 series of 2020 for the guidance of DepEd officials, personnel and staff at the Central, Regional and Division Offices and schools nationwide, “to ensure heightened precautions in light of the recent developments in the overall national situation.”
Briones said that the DepEd Task Force COVID-19 is “monitoring the situation closely and is ready to make informed, coordinated, and proportionate response” based on updated guidelines or advisory by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IAFT-EID) headed by the Department of Health.
Suspend activities until further notice
DepEd, in the recent set of directives, announced that “all national activities involving learners and/or teachers requiring travel and congregation of various schools, divisions, and/or regions” – except for the already ongoing National Schools Press Conference (NSPC) and the National Festival of Talents (NFOT) – are “suspended” immediately and “will remain so until further notice.”
The directive also cited that “all regional activities involving learners and/or teachers requiring travel and congregation of various schools and/or division” – which include Regional Palaro (Regional Athletic Meets) – are “suspended” effective immediately and “until further notice.”
DepEd also required all organizers of suspended national and regional activities to “report suspended activities” to the its Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Service (DRRMS).
Meanwhile, DepEd noted that all division and district activities that involve the gathering/congregation of various schools in cities and municipalities – where there have been DOH-confirmed local cases of COVID-19 – are likewise suspended effective immediately and until further notice. Currently, cases of COVID-19 are confirmed in some parts of the National Capital Region (NCR) particularly Taguig City and San Juan City.
“All division and district activities that involve the gathering/congregation of various schools in all other cities and municipalities are highly discouraged,” DepEd said. “Organizers are advised to seek the recommendation of local health authorities should the activities push through,” it added.
Likewise, DepEd said that “all off-campus activities are suspended effective immediately.”
Meanwhile, DepEd clarified that activities involving congregation of learners “within the school may proceed” – provided that all personnel and learners exhibiting respiratory infections “must not attend” and that the applicable guidelines are “strictly observed.”
“Personnel and learners exhibiting respiratory infections shall be referred to appropriate health personnel for proper evaluation and/or referral to a hospital if needed,” DepEd explained.
As part of initiatives on COVID-19, DepEd also reminded all of its personnel and learners to “use and share only verified and up-to-date information from reliable and official sources” such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the DOH, DepEd, and other concerned government agencies.
“All DepEd schools and offices are instructed to share only from these sources when disseminating information on social media and other platforms,” Briones said in the latest COVID-19 directives.
As of March 8, Sunday, DOH reported that there are 10 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines.