DepEd urged to form panel of experts on dry run of in-person classes

Robie de Guzman   •   March 1, 2021   •   330

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Monday called on the Department of Education (DepEd) to form a panel of experts that will guide the pilot tests of face-to-face classes in low-risk areas.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on basic education, arts, and culture, said the panel of experts should look at the pilot testing program and resumption of in-person classes with a more specialized approach, considering the unique situations of each school.

“Hindi naman ibig sabihin na dahil nag-cancel ng face-to-face classes, titigil na rin tayo sa pilot schools. This is a good way for our scientists to study what can be done to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on our learners,” Gatchalian said in a statement.

DepEd earlier said it is eyeing to conduct a dry-run of face-to-face classes in 1,065 schools but some senators proposed to reduce the number of schools to 500 or lower, with a smaller number of students.

Gatchalian said he has expressed support for this proposal to “gather local evidence on the safe resumption of face-to-face classes” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a Senate hearing last week, the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) cited a global study of 191 countries which showed no association between school status and COVID-19 infection rates.

The PPS also said that one year of school closure is equivalent to two years’ loss on learning.

For the PPS, the effects of prolonged school closures on health and development—including learning losses, increased exposure to violence, sexual abuse, and early pregnancies—can be mitigated if the highest standards of safety measures are observed.

“The damage of school closures can be deeper and longer. During pre-COVID, our learners did not do well in international large-scale assessments and our national achievement scores were not doing great. And now, because of the lack of access to face-to-face education, internet, and gadgets, the learners are left on their own,” Gatchalian said.

DepEd earlier proposed the pilot testing of limited face-to-face classes, citing an internal department survey which showed that more than 50% of students are in favor of attending physical classes.

The pilot testing was scheduled in January but it was postponed by President Rodrigo Duterte due to the continuing threat of COVID-19.

DepEd made a fresh bid for the resumption of physical classes in areas classified as low-risk for COVID-19 transmission in February but it was still rejected by Duterte as he stressed that classes will only resume once vaccination against COVID-19 starts.

Palace asks all sectors to unite, help gov’t end COVID-19 pandemic

Robie de Guzman   •   April 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang has urged all sectors in the country to unite and help in government efforts to combat the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the appeal as he cited measures implemented by the government to slow down the virus transmission and shrugged off criticism over the Duterte administration’s handling of the public health crisis.

In a statement, Roque said the government has intensified testing, tracing, isolation, treatment, and vaccination efforts to address the COVID-19 spike.

Citing global data, the Palace official said that the Philippines ranks third after India and China in terms of tests per million population, while in terms of total tests conducted, the Philippines is second after Indonesia among ASEAN countries, with more than 10, 421,636 tests conducted, as of April 5, 2021.

“We have a weekly average of 52,565 tests from April 4-10, and reaching a high of 63,839 tests conducted last April 8, 2021,” Roque added.

On tracing, Roque said the government has strengthened and improved the use of Staysafe.ph system by using automatic contact tracing through Smart Messaging System and the supplementation of around 27,672 contact tracers in the NCR Plus.

The NCR Plus refers to the National Capital Region, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna. The area was previously placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from March 29 to April 11 due to a surge in coronavirus infections and later reverted to modified ECQ until April 30.

Malacañang also said that the government built more facilities to augment the need for quarantine centers.

“On isolation, the Department of Public Works and Highways continue to build facilities and mobile hospitals to augment the need for quarantine facilities, including the activation of more than 1,700 beds, including the recently opened 110-bed capacity modular hospital in Quezon Institute and 300-bed capacity Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facility in The Manila Times College of Subic, Inc.,” he said.

Efforts are also being made to accommodate and better serve patients with COVID-19, Roque said.

“On treatment, we have set up a One Hospital Command to better serve patients in need of hospitalization. Medical facilities have likewise given to increase its dedicated beds COVID-19 after the President directed the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation to settle its obligation with hospitals while mainstreaming telemedicine in local government units,” he said.

“A total of 136 healthcare workers from the Visayas and Mindanao have been deployed to different facilities in Metro Manila,” he added.

Roque also pointed out that the Philippines is the third highest in vaccine rollout in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), with 1.2 million doses administered.

“On vaccination, we have reached the one million mark in terms of total COVID-19 vaccines administered,” he said.

Roque reminded critics that the spike in COVID-19 cases is not only happening in the Philippines but in other countries as well.

“Critics and the detractors of the Administration have always something to say. It is worth mentioning that the increase in the number of cases is seen not only in the Philippines, but it is reflected worldwide as per World Health Organization Country Representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe,” he said.

He, however, acknowledged that much more can be done to ramp up efforts to respond to the prevailing public health crisis.

“We call on all sectors to unite and help the government in putting an end to this dreadful pandemic,” he said.

Gatchalian renews call for gov’t to uphold teachers’ welfare amid COVID-19 pandemic

Robie de Guzman   •   April 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Wednesday renewed his push for the government to uphold the welfare of teachers amid the threat of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Gatchalian made the call following the deaths of five Department of Education (DepEd) personnel in Isabela due to coronavirus infection.

“Habang patuloy ang pagtaas ng mga kaso ng COVID-19 sa bansa, lalong dapat paigtingin ng DepEd ang pag-aalaga sa ating mga gurong isinasakripisyo ang kanilang kaligtasan at kalusugan upang maipagpatuloy ng ating mga kabataan ang kanilang pag-aaral,” Gatchalian said in a statement.

“Kailangang tiyakin sa ating mga guro na may agarang tulong na maipapaabot sa kanila kung sakaling sila ay magkasakit,” he added.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts, and Culture, said that upholding the welfare of teachers entails the strict enforcement of the alternative work arrangement, the assurance of access to COVID-19 testing, treatment for those who would contract the virus, and the prioritization of teachers in the vaccination program.

DepEd last year assured that its personnel is covered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth). The Employees’ Compensation Commission (ECC) also offers the Employees’ Compensation (EC) Program, which provides income, medical, and other health benefits in the event of work-related sickness, injury, or death.

The School Division Office (SDO) in Isabela earlier said that it has reached out to the grieving families to provide urgent assistance and facilitate the expeditious release of benefits. DepEd also said that the infections were acquired through community transmission and not in their line of work.

Teachers’ groups have been calling on DepEd to extend financial assistance to personnel who get sick with COVID-19, claiming that teachers who got infected did not receive financial assistance from the government.

They said that any financial assistance extended to them comes from personal contributions or personal help from some government officials.

Gatchalian also reiterated his push to move up teachers in the COVID-19 vaccination priority list.

Teachers are currently under the B1 category with other social workers.

Gatchalian argued that teachers should instead be in the A4 sector with the frontline personnel of other essential sectors.

1,212 schools nationwide turned over as vaccination, isolation sites — DepEd

Marje Pelayo   •   April 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — A total of 1,212 schools nationwide have been utilized as vaccination and temporary isolation facilities for COVID-19 patients, Education Secretary Leonor Briones confirmed on Tuesday, April 13.

Aside from classrooms and gymnasiums, school grounds are also converted into quarantine areas.

Ito ay ni-review ng DepEd , local government and DOH. Dapat papasa sa requirements ng DOH, dahil ayaw natin ma-expose kung sino mang andiyan sa eskwelahan at this time (The DepEd , local government and the DOH have reviewed these facilities. The areas should pass the requirements of DOH because we do not want to expose anyone present at the school premises at this time),” Briones said.

As requested by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Metro Manila mayors, the DepEd has allowed the use of some school buildings for government health-related activities.

May schools kami na one room lang ang clinic, mayroon kaming schools na medyo may lugar talaga for isolation centers. Ayaw natin gamitin ang schools na walang tubig, malayo sa health facilities at nasa crowded (We have schools with only one room for a clinic and we have schools with a place to spare for isolation centers. We do not want to use schools that lack water supply; too far from health facilities and located in crowded areas),” Briones explained, giving responsibility to local government units to manage and monitor all concerned schools.

Of the 1,212 schools used as quarantine facilities, only four are located in Metro Manila; 422 in Eastern Visayas and 216 in Bicol.

Education Undersecretary for Administration Alain Pascua explained that while the surge of infection is higher in Metro Manila, only a few schools were turned over for medical purposes because the region already has a lot of hospitals and facilities.

 

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