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Palace: Up to schools to decide whether to suspend classes
In this undated file photo, students gather on the first day of school.
The STAR/Michael Varcas, file

Palace: Up to schools to decide whether to suspend classes

Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - March 8, 2020 - 3:21pm

MANILA, Philippines — It would be up to school administrators to decide whether to suspend classes due to the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Malacañang said Sunday.

Navotas in Metro Manila and Taytay in Rizal suspended classes for Monday hours after the Health department confirmed the first case of local transmission of COVID-19 in the Philippines on Saturday. 

Cainta in Rizal, meanwhile, decided to suspend classes for Monday and Tuesday (March 9 and 10).

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said school officials can suspend classes if they think it would protect students from the virus, which has claimed the lives of more than 3,400 people and has infected nearly 102,000 others worldwide.

"It's discretionary to school authorities. Of course, they will decide on that. They are the administrators. They can suspend and then they can make another schedule to make up for the absences," Panelo said in a radio interview.

"That's their discretion. If they feel school children are safe, they can do that," he added.

The Department of Education said on Saturday that it will wait for the assessment of the inter-agency task force working to address the COVID-19 threat.

RELATED: DepEd: Weekend classes needed when lessons at Taal-affected schools resume

No Palace lockdown

But Panelo said there is no need to suspend work in government offices or lock down Malacañang because they are not crowded. He also said the rising cases of COVID-19 would not affect President Rodrigo Duterte's schedule. 

"I don't think so because he has a lot of scheduled activities," the Palace spokesman said.

Panelo said he would release an executive order declaring a state of public health emergency during a Palace press briefing on Monday. The declaration, which was announced Saturday, will mobilize resources and ease processes, including procurement of critical logistics and supplies.

Under Republic Act No. 11332, a public health emergency is defined as the occurrence of an imminent threat of an illness or health condition which, among other possible effects, could pose a high probability of a large number of deaths in the affected population and widespread exposure to an infectious or toxic agent.

Under the law, the Health secretary has the authority to declare epidemics of national or international concerns except when the same threatens national security.

"We should not panic. We have the best containment (mechanisms)," Panelo said.

Funds being readied

"We are ready for whatever eventuality...With regard to funding, the DOH (Department of Health) has funding. The DOH is seeking a P2-billon supplemental fund," he added.

Panelo said funds for expenses related to containing COVID-19 are being readied to enable the government to respond to emergency situations.

He said President Duterte is adhering to precautionary measures aimed at preventing the spread of the disease.

"All protocols applicable to ordinary people are also applicable to the President. Our protocols are simple. Wash hands as long as you need to. Do not go to crowded areas if you are sick. Cover your nose when coughing...more on hygiene," Panelo said.

Panelo admitted that economic losses due to COVID-19 could not be avoided.

"That problem is not local. It's international, global. So we have to take it. That's the reality. The economic managers are trying to do something about it. But if you ask whether we can stop the losses, I don't think we can," he said.

Last Saturday, the DOH said the fifth case of COVID-19 is the first case of local transmission in the Philippines because the patient had no recent travel history. There are six confirmed cases of COVID-19 so far.

The agency on Saturday raised the COVID-19 Alert System to Code Red sublevel 1 and has recommended to the Office of the President the declaration of a state of public health emergency.

2019-NCOV NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
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