By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
The Department of Education (DepEd) clarified that there is “no decision yet” on mass testing as it prepares for the formal opening of classes in August.
“There is no decision yet on ‘mass testing’ in DepEd,” said DepEd Undersecretary and Spokesperson Atty. Nepomuceno Malaluan.
While there will be a testing protocol or component as part of the elements of DepEd Health Standards, he noted that “mass testing needs to be defined very carefully [because] it might be misinterpreted as testing all, which may be neither affordable nor needed.”
In an effort to reduce the duration of infection, DepEd has included in its Health Standards a “testing protocol” in coordination with local government units (LGUs) and local health and partners.
There will also be “internal contact tracing” as well “pre-agreed referral system for symptomatic patients.”
DepEd also aims to ensure the availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for emergency situations and for management of quarantine facilities.
Aside from testing protocol, other key elements of the DepEd Health Standards include increasing the physical and mental resilience of both learners and personnel through school-based feeding for undernourished students; health education and nutrition advocacy and instruction; mental health interventions; provision of vitamins and minerals supplements; and support for teachers and personnel.
To reduce transmission, DepEd is set to implement school readiness standards; respiratory and Hand Hygiene/WASH in Schools with provision of soaps and others; use of masks; and regular disinfection.
DepEd will also implement close monitoring by teachers such as symptoms, social distancing, respiratory, and hand hygiene.
“Students and teachers with respiratory symptoms will not allowed in school,” DepEd said.
“Health and safety standards not only in school, but also at home and in travel.”
In order to reduce contact, DepEd will implement physical distancing at work, classrooms, and travel, and will reduce class size to 15 to 20 learners per class.
It will also roll out multiple learning delivery modalities and alternative work arrangements. DepEd also aims to ensure proper “ventilation of classrooms” and has cancelled all activities involving large congregation of learners.
To ensure monitoring, DepEd assures continuation of DepEd Task Force COVID-19, implementation of communications plans and generating internal situation reports.