By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Education Secretary Leonor Briones on Tuesday confirmed that she is free of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) after her test yielded a negative result.
Briones, in a text message to the Manila Bulletin, said that she is “more than okay” and that she is “asymptomatic,” meaning she did not exhibit any respiratory or other symptoms related to COVID-19. She also said her quarantine period is “now over.”
Last March 12, DepEd confirmed it received advice that one of the participants in two meetings attended by several of its officials and personnel, held on Feb. 28 and March 5, had tested positive for COVID-19 . The Feb. 28 meeting, which lasted three hours, was held at the DepEd Central Office Mabini Building, while the March 5 meeting was a hearing at the Senate.
Consistent with Department of Health (DOH) protocols, DepEd said that the officials and personnel who attended those meetings have undertaken the necessary precautions, including home quarantine.
While Briones, who is 79 years old, did not have any contact with the confirmed case patient, DepEd said she went on voluntary self-quarantine at home as an “extra precautionary measure.” Health authorities earlier noted that older people, as well as those with pre-existing conditions, may be at a higher risk of contracting the deadly virus.
While on home quarantine, Briones gave the assurance that she was able to discharge her functions. By using telecommuting tools, she continued to give instructions to DepEd’s management, particularly to the Executive Committee (ExeCom).
Briones was also regularly updated on situation reports given by the DepEd Task Force COVID-19, granted some media interviews, and signed documents deemed “urgent” by the agency.
In a separate statement, DepEd said Briones’ test result came back on Monday (March 16).
Similar to other Cabinet officials’ reasons, Briones underwent COVID-19 testing to “ensure that there will be no threat to her functions” as Education chief, “no disruption in the governance of the education sector, and protecting the President and other cabinet members from possible exposure, at this critical time.”
“Classes may be suspended but our work in DepEd to protect our Filipino teachers, personnel, and 27.2 million learners against this virus will never stop,” Briones said. “I will continue to discharge my functions as the government enhances its measures in responding to this crisis.”
In her latest video conferencing meeting with the DepEd ExeCom on Monday, Briones discussed the actions of DepEd on the recent issuances of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Managing Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) and the Office of the President (OP).
Briones also issued DepEd Memorandum No. 042, series of 2020, detailing the guidelines for the remainder of school year 2019-2020 in light of the COVID-19 measures, which include the directives for the 4th quarterly examinations, graduation rites, grading and transmutation formula, and Online Alternative Learning Delivery.
Briones also released guidelines for work arrangements in all DepEd offices, units, and schools within the National Capital Region (NCR) and other areas where community quarantine has been imposed by the appropriate authorities through DepEd Memorandum (DM) No. 43, s. 2020.
DM No. 43, s. 2020 is guided by the following: observance of stringent social distancing measures in all DepEd offices, units, and schools located within NCR; continuity of delivery of DepEd essential services and priority programs, while observing stringent social distancing measures in work-related functions and responsibilities; and consistency of the actions of each official, teaching, and non-teaching personnel in the context of work and private activities, to ensure that the public health objectives are achieved and not compromised by the inconsistent action and behavior of individuals.