Class reopening? Flatten curve first, say House leaders

Published May 27, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Ellson Quismorio

As the “no vaccine, no classes” argument gains traction, two ranking House members have underscored what they believe is a more immediate requirement to the reopening of classes in the Philippines — the flattening of the curve.

Surigao del Sur 2nd district Rep. Johnny Pimentel and Camiguin lone district Rep. Xavier Jesus “XJ” Romualdo said a flattened curve of COVID-19 cases is the only tangible way to confirm that a country has curbed the rate of infections.

“I have not really decided on what side to take because I’m waiting for the flattening of the curve,” Pimentel, Deputy Speaker, candidly said when asked whether or not he subscribes to the no vaccine, no classes appeal of some of his colleagues in the House of Representatives.

“We [must] know whether [or not] the spread of the virus is weakening and/or being contained already,” he said.

The Department of Education (DepEd) has set the reopening of classes, particularly for school year 2020 to 2021, on August 24 despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This is mostly to comply with Republic Act (RA) No.7977, which says that the given school year “shall start on the first Monday of June but not later than the last day of August.”

President Duterte had earlier opposed the scheduled class reopening saying it would be “useless” to do so without a vaccine.

Science and pharmaceutical experts all over the world are racing to develop both a vaccine and a cure for the acute respiratory ailment known as COVID-19.

DepEd is eyeing alternative learning methods such as online classes and possibly radio and TV-broadcast lessons in lieu of face-to-face learning, which is worrisome given the highly contagious nature of the coronavirus.

“I agree that before we even seriously consider all of these things, we should at least make sure that we’ve been able to flatten the curve first,” said Romualdo, who is Deputy Majority Leader.

“If we still ultimately decide to hold classes before we have a vaccine, we should at least redesign our schools and classrooms first to lessen the risk of transmission,” he said.

No curve, but a zig-zag

Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III was quoted as saying that the COVID-19 curve in the country has begun to flatten–meaning confirmed cases are on a steady decline.

However, a review of the daily confirmed cases since May 11 or roughly two weeks ago shows the image of a zig-zag rather than a downward slope. Two weeks or 14 days are the accepted incubation period of the virus.

Incidentally, Tuesday’s (May 26) additional cases of 350 is the biggest increase in the past 16 days. The second highest increase was on May 11, when 292 new cases were recorded. The lowest was on May 22, with 163 new cases.

There were a total of 3,875 new cases listed from May 11 to May 26, or an average rate of 242.18 new cases daily.

The daily increases during the past 16 days are as follows: May 26, 350 cases; May 25, 284; May 24, 258; May 23, 180; May 22, 163; May 21, 213; May 20, 279; May 19, 224; May 18, 205; May 17, 208; May 16, 214; May 15, 215; May 14, 258; May 13, 268; May 12, 264; May 11, 292.

Ang Probinsyano Party-list Rep. Ronnie Ong had earlier said that it would be better for DepEd to just defer the entire school opening, given the education sector’s lack of readiness in carrying out online classes.

“DepEd should just postpone the entire school year without any exception. Our policy should apply to all to avoid any confusion. We are unprepared for this crisis,” Ong said.

“Walang training ang marami sa ating mga teachers to hold online classes (Most of our teachers aren’t trained to hold online classes). My suggestion is the DepEd should use this time to properly re-tool their teachers and their system to adapt to the so-called new normal,” he said.