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Duterte scraps face-to-face 2021 classes
“I am cancelling the order given a few weeks ago to the education department. I am suspending the face-to-face classes among children,” said the President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, who cut short his holiday stay in Davao City to address the developments related to the new variant of COVID-19 in Britain.
STAR/ File

Duterte scraps face-to-face 2021 classes

Shiela Crisostomo, Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - December 27, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte revoked yesterday an earlier order to the Department of Education (DepEd) to allow face-to-face classes by January next year following reports that the coronavirus has mutated into a new variant, which has the ability to spread much more rapidly.

“I am cancelling the order given a few weeks ago to the education department. I am suspending the face-to-face classes among children,” said the President, who cut short his holiday stay in Davao City to address the developments related to the new variant of COVID-19 in Britain.

“We know a little only of this new variant,” the President said at the start of the meeting at 6 p.m.

Duterte noted that there have been recorded cases of infection related to the new variant in Sabah, Malaysia, citing the report of Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said no case with the new strain of COVID-19 has been found in the Philippines.

A travel ban will be considered only when community transmission of the new variant has been recorded in the country, he said.

The Department of Health is also recommending a mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers from all countries with COVID variant cases.

In response to the President’s order, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said the department will implement the instructions “to recall limited face-to-face classes in light of the recent development.”

Duterte had approved the recommendation to hold limited face-to-face classes in areas with low-risk COVID-19 transmission.

The DepEd said limited face-to-face classes would only be conducted in low-risk areas if a local government unit or school makes a request with their regional or division office.

Earlier, Sen. Bong Go reiterated his firm reservation regarding the holding of pilot face-to-face classes in the country by January 2021 while there is still no approved safe and effective vaccine.

Go, chair of the Senate committee on health, has consistently urged concerned authorities to reconsider such a plan given the potential threat of COVID-19 and its new strains to the health and safety of the students, teaching staff and surrounding communities, without an approved vaccine to protect them.

“My stand remains the same,” he said. “The safety of every Filipino comes first. A life lost is a life lost forever.”

Go discussed the issue with the President to reconsider the move and delay the pilot implementation until a safe and effective vaccine is available and the country’s level of immunity is high enough to achieve herd immunity.

79 passengers

In a presentation during the meeting, Duque said that from Dec. 22 to 25, a total of 79 passengers from the UK arrived in the country,

with two passengers flying back to UK.

They were all tested for COVID-19.

Fifty-three passengers tested negative for the virus and one tested positive. The DOH was still waiting for the test results of 23 others.

“But the test result of the infected passenger does not mean that this was caused by the new variant. Our experts from the Philippine Genome Center will still do thorough studies on this,” he added.

Citing reports from the World Health Organization (WHO), he noted that from Aug. 28 to Dec. 23, a total of 12 countries from the Western Pacific Region recorded imported cases from the UK.

Of this, four countries detected cases of the COVID-19 variant, namely: Japan (5), Australia (4), Hong Kong (2) and Singapore (1).

“There are no cases from the new variant recorded in the Philippines. However, this data has limitations because this came only from official sites where data continue to change due to ongoing case investigations,” he said.

Duque underscored there are “imported cases” of COVID-19 in the country whose origin could not be determined.

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