By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Education Secretary Leonor Briones on Friday maintained that the Department of Education (DepEd) should be consulted first in any decisions concerning the use of schools, particularly in the public school system.
Following the proposal of the Department of Health (DOH) to use schools as isolation rooms or quarantine centers for suspected cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Briones said the DepEd should be consulted first by the concerned local government unit (LGU) for proper coordination.
DepEd, Briones said, is” cooperating as fully as possible” with the decisions of Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) and the Cabinet concerning the measures against the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“The Cabinet last night agreed that specific hospitals and specific health facilities will be identified to deal specifically with COVID19 patients,” she noted.
Given this, Briones said the “matter of utilization of classrooms has been discussed earlier several times” by the IATF. The agreement, she noted, “was that any decisions concerning schools should be made in consultation” with the DepEd and in cooperation with DepEd officials “on the ground under specific conditions.”
Earlier, the DOH said that barangays can turn classrooms into virus isolation rooms if needed, noting that hospitals are currently “prioritizing” severe and critical COVID-19 patients for confinement. Using schools as isolation rooms, DOH noted, would help address the lack of facilities and testing kits for the increasing number of COVID-19 confirmed and suspected cases in the country.
On Friday, DOH announced that the Philippines now has 230 COVID-19 cases, while 18 have died and 8 recovered.