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Opinion

EDITORIAL - Safe reopening

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Safe reopening

With the economy needing further stimulation and school children raring to break out of over two years of COVID home confinement, the government has announced that in-person classes will finally be rolled out, in phases, beginning September. For a full resumption of face-to-face classes, the target is November.

Educators, who like students have also struggled with blended learning, have welcomed the plan. Like health frontliners, however, educators want to ensure that the resumption of in-person classes will be as safe as possible, for learners, teachers and other school personnel alike.

The COVID virus, after all, is proving to be a stubborn survivor. It has mutated so much that scientists believe the subvariants of the highly infectious Omicron strain will need a vaccine that is altogether different from the first batches that targeted the original coronavirus from China’s Wuhan City.

Some of the Omicron subvariants have been detected in the Philippines and are spreading, with COVID trackers expecting infections peaking by the middle of the month. While most of the new cases are mild or asymptomatic, experts have warned that reinfection can be dangerous especially for those suffering from long COVID, with the heart and lungs vulnerable to serious damage or failure. Among the elderly, even mild COVID can also cause long-term brain fog and aggravate cognitive problems.

To ensure COVID-safe learning spaces, educators want expanded facilities to allow for physical distancing when in-person classes resume. They want the vaccination and booster program intensified and expanded to cover more age groups.

School administrators must also ensure that the premises are equipped for proper sanitation, with running water for regular hand washing and clean lavatories. Such facilities have been inadequate in many schools even before the pandemic.

Temperature scanners and alcohol dispensers must be available and sufficient for the school population. Isolation areas must be set aside for those who develop COVID symptoms but cannot be sent home immediately. Masking must be mandatory.

Apart from COVID, schools must also be equipped against dengue, with window screens installed and spots where stagnant water can accumulate cleaned up regularly.

After more than two years of confronting the pandemic and decades of dealing with periodic dengue outbreaks, people are familiar with health safety protocols. The return of in-person classes must not aggravate the public health crisis.

COVID-19

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