DepEd, DOH ink guidelines for pilot run of face-to-face learning

Robie de Guzman   •   September 27, 2021   •   261

MANILA, Philippines ­– The Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Health (DOH) on Monday signed the guidelines for the pilot implementation of in-person classes in selected areas deemed as low-risk for COVID-19.

The DepEd said the guidelines contain mechanisms to ensure safety of participating learners, teaching and non-teaching staff, and their families.

“Our utmost priority is the health and safety of our learners and teachers while ensuring that learning happens and learning gaps are addressed. We have been proactive in planning for safe return to schools,” Education Secretary Leonor Briones said.

“The operational guideline for the pilot run of face-to-face classes is a product of our collaboration with DOH, in consultation with various stakeholders, including child health experts,” she added.

Briones stressed that the guidelines will only be applicable for schools that passed the strict vetting process of DepEd and DOH, and have the support of their respective local government units.

The pilot test will be conducted in 120 schools across the country that have passed the School Readiness Assessment conducted by DepEd and concerned local government units.

The guidelines set standards on the readiness of schools for re-opening. It implements the Prevent, Detect, Isolate, Treat, and Reintegrate (PDITR) framework highlighting the importance of availability of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities.

The guidelines also emphasized the need for proper ventilation in classrooms, room layouts that will enable physical distancing between persons, prioritization of students who will benefit most from limited face-to-face learning modality, management of foot traffic, and conduct of simulation activities prior to implementation of the pilot, among others.

“We want to ensure that we provide safe learning spaces for children during this pandemic. The pilot run will be a shared responsibility among DOH, DepEd and local government units to ensure that mechanisms are in place from prevention of COVID-19 infection to reintegration of recovered patients,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

“It is also a shared responsibility among school management, teachers, and families for ensuring that all minimum public health standards are observed and possible COVID-19 cases are detected early through regular symptoms screening and reporting,” he added.

Teachers and school personnel participating in the program should be fully vaccinated, must be aged 65 and below, and have no co-morbidities.

“We are committed to providing additional protection for our teachers through vaccination. While vaccination is not mandatory, classroom learning will be limited to vaccinated teaching personnel. So as not to disenfranchise unvaccinated teachers, they may teach using distance or online modules. This also presents options for parents who are still hesitant to send their children to school,” Duque said.

Under the guidelines, Kindergarten class will have a maximum of 12 learners, while Grade 1 to 3 classes will have 16 students. Technical-Vocation classes in five senior high schools may have 20 learners.

Learners in Kindergarten to Grade 3 will only spend a maximum of 3 hours in school while senior high school students will have 4 hours.

The pilot will feature a combined implementation of face-to-face classes and distance learning.

DepEd assured it has drafted a contingency plan with recommended actions for various scenarios, which range from where there is a suspected case presenting symptoms, to a scenario where there is resurgence of COVID-19 cases in multiple barangays. This sets the policy on when schools should impose a lockdown.

“With the help of DOH and other local partners, we will soon orient those who will be involved in the pilot run and coordinate with them regarding the prioritization of their vaccination in case our participating teachers and other non-teaching personnel haven’t completed their vaccines yet,” Briones said.

The government has yet to announce the exact date of the pilot run for physical classes, as well as the list of participating schools.

The dry run will be carried out for two months. Its expansion will depend on the result of the evaluation of the pilot test.

PNP ready to assist in national rollout of COVID-19 pediatric vaccination – Eleazar

Robie de Guzman   •   October 28, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Thursday said it is ready to secure and help in the government’s nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive for all minors, which is set to start next week.

In a statement, PNP chief Police General Guillermo Eleazar said he has ordered all police units across the country to start security preparations for the national rollout of the vaccination for children aged 12 to 17 that may start as early as Nov. 3.

“Police commanders nationwide should get in touch with their LGUs to be able to effectively craft security plans with the aim of enforcing minimum public health standards and ensuring the safety of minors and their parents,” Eleazar said.

Police assets are also ready to assist in the national vaccination program in any capacity, including disseminating information and awareness on COVID-19 vaccines.

“The Medical Reserve Force is on standby and is ready for deployment to help facilitate the inoculation process should our LGUs require assistance in their local vaccination programs,” the PNP chief said.

The Philippine government is expecting to vaccinate around 12.7 million children aged 12 to 17.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. earlier said the national government is eyeing to complete the vaccination of children within this age group by December.

DOH says HTAC recommendations on vaccine booster, third shots to be updated

Robie de Guzman   •   October 28, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The recommendation of the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) on the implementation of COVID-19 vaccine boosters and third doses are still interim and will be updated, the Department of Health (DOH) said Thursday.

In a statement, the DOH clarified that HTAC’s recommendations only serve as a guide to sectorial planning and will be revised pending assessment from the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the amendment of Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).

It will also be updated based on the recommendation from the World Health Organization Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (WHO SAGE) expected this November, it added.

The DOH earlier said the EUA of vaccines must first be amended to state the number of doses that must be administered as part of the series. A letter of intent for the application of the EUA has been submitted to the FDA.

The DOH said that the formal recommendation on boosters will have to be adapted into a policy with operational plans

While waiting for the guidelines on boosters, the DOH reiterated that reaching eligible unvaccinated individuals 12 years old and above should be prioritized.

“The primary series of vaccines far outweigh the incremental benefit of boosters. We have to prioritize giving the primary series of these COVID-19 vaccines to the unvaccinated so they, too, can receive the additional protection that vaccines provide against hospitalizations and deaths,” said DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.

On the mixing and matching of vaccine brands for boosters, the department said that it will depend on FDA’s final assessment of the evidence submitted by the DOH All Experts Group.

Mayor Isko bares rehab plans for MSMEs affected by COVID-19 pandemic

Maris Federez   •   October 28, 2021

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso on Thursday bared his plan on how to rehabilitate thousands of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that were affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

These MSMEs were forced to close down and lay off millions of workers as a result of the crisis.

“Ramdam ko ang hirap na dinanas ng milyong manggagawang nawalan ng trabaho dahil sa pandemya. Paano natin sila ibabangon? We have a plan. And it is similar to what I did in Manila,” Moreno said in one of his rounds in the province of Pampanga.

Moreno believes local government units (LGUs) can never go wrong with investing in housing, education, and health just like what he did in Manila.

“We know that by investing in housing, at least, the multiplier effect is 17 times, so your peso will go 17 times much longer in housing. That has never been done in the Philippines in the past,” explained Moreno.

Moreno said rehabilitating MSMEs under his administration will be similar to having a “Marshall Plan” which helped European countries in their economic recovery in the aftermath of World War II.

Moreno’s version of the plan, however, is two-pronged.

The first is the partnering of LGUs with national government agencies such as the Departments of Trade and Industry and Agriculture, Land Bank, and Development Bank of the Philippines and drawing up a plan on how to help MSMEs re-start their business.

“The other part of the Marshall Plan is giving out loans, through LGUs, using their Mandanas incremental windfall to assist MSMEs through low-interest loans. Ang tawag po diyan ay Creative Financial Engineering or ISKOnomics 102.” said Moreno.

Moreno pointed out that as a result of the Mandanas Ruling by the Supreme Court in 2018 (and confirmed in 2019) the IRA (internal revenue allotment) was programmed to increase by 55 percent in the 2022 budget, reaching Php1.08 trillion or 4.8 percent of the country’s gross domestic product compared to 3.5 percent of GDP in 2021.

“Kesa magastos sa kung saan-saan lang, hihikayatin ko, sakaling maging pangulo ako, ang mga LGU na gamitin ang dagdag na kita sa maraming taon. Isanla nila ang IRA sa DBP at maski pribadong mga banko na maraming pera ngayon dahil mahina ang loans dahil naman sa walang negosyo, para magtayo ng pabahay, iskwelahang kumpleto sa computers, at ospital,” said Moreno.

“Iyan ang solusyon ni Mayor Isko-Doc Willie. Tulong sa tao, hindi pulitika. Bilis aksyon. Dahil hindi tayo sumusuko sa pandemya. Hinaharap natin ang problema na buo ang loob; nag-iisip; pinag-aaralan; at kayang-kayang gawin,” said Moreno.

The Philippine Statistics Authority has yet to come out with the number of MSMEs that closed shop in 2020 at the height of the lockdowns.

As of March 2021, the PSA placed the number of unemployed Filipinos at 3.44 million. —/mbmf

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