MANILA, Philippines — Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III on Thursday said that certain conditions must be met if ever the pilot testing of face-to-face classes will be allowed.
“Dapat siguraduhin muna na ang mga metrics na walang COVID cases sa isang lugar, nasa low-risk ang kanilang classification or walang reported na daily new cases for the last 28 days,” Duque said during the Laging Handa public briefing.
The local health system must also be capable of responding to and handling a surge in cases.
“Ang kanilang health system ay dapat maseguro na kung sakaling magkaroon ng surge doon sa lugar kung saan magsasagawa ng pilot test ng face-to-face classes ay dapat sapat ang support system,” Duque said.
Teachers participating in the pilot testing must also be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Mga teachers muna ang kinakailangang mabigyan ng proteksyon. Kapag sapat na ang pagbabakuna sa kanila, malamang ay mauumpisahan ng 100 paaralan ang pagsasagawa ng face-to-face classes,” the DOH chief said.
Duque, who also chairs the Inter-Agency Task Force, provided the conditions when asked about the proposal to try out face-to-face classes at the basic education level.
The Department of Education (DepEd) and other sectors previously pushed for the conduct of pilot testing of physical classes in at least 100 schools in areas that have lower COVID-19 risk.
Some sectors have expressed concern about the possible long-term impact on learning and productivity of students of the prolonged school closures.
But President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly rejected attempts to resume face-to-face classes due to the threat of the more contagious variants of COVID-19.
He previously said that he is not in favor of allowing in-person classes because he is seeking to protect the health of the students against the dangers of coronavirus disease.
He added that he would only allow students to physically return to schools when all Filipinos have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Since last year, the government has suspended in-person classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic and shifted to alternative learning programs which include having students attend classes through distance learning methods such as online, printed modules, and radio and television-based instructions.