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SCHOOL OPENING MAY BE POSTPONED

Testing of teachers sought before classes resume

/ 05:36 AM May 22, 2020

A teachers’ group has urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to conduct widespread testing on workers in the education sector before they are required to work.

The DepEd’s own workforce of about 900,000 is the largest in the government bureaucracy, and failure to test those who were exposed to or showed symptoms of COVID-19 could endanger the health of millions, including teachers’ families, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers said.

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Another group, the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC), had earlier called on the DepEd to postpone the school opening scheduled for Aug. 24, citing the possibility of a protracted crisis over the coronavirus pandemic.

Postpone class openings

“We will confront a larger crisis if we push through with opening on Aug. 24, especially since expanded COVID-19 testing has just barely started,” said the group’s chair, Benjo Basas.

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The teachers are due to return to work on June 1.

Education Undersecretary Tonisito Umali has told senators they could consider extending to September the period that DepEd has to set the opening of classes.

Prepare health system

Last week, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian told reporters that the Senate might amend Republic Act No. 7977 (“An Act to Lengthen the School Calendar from 200 days to not more than 220 Class Days”) to give the President the power to delay class openings if necessary.

A team of professors from the University of the Philippines (UP) urged the government to prepare the health system for a further spike in coronavirus cases.

“The virus is still here and is a clear and present danger to us all. We are still in the early stages of managing this pandemic. We are not yet on the other side of the curve as we are barely managing transmissions,” the professors said in a report published on Wednesday.

In Metro Manila, which accounts for 64 percent of total cases in the country, the report pointed out that the number of cases per week was still increasing in many cities.

While it noted a decrease in the number of cases on May 10 to May 16 in Quezon City, Manila and the cities of San Juan, Malabon and Navotas, the team said the numbers could still rise with new data coming in.

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Contact tracing

“The government must ensure that health systems are capable of detecting, testing, isolating and treating every case of COVID-19, as well as tracing every contact,” it said.

The report was prepared by UP professors Guido David of the Institute of Mathematics, Ranjit Rye of the Department of Political Science and Octa Research associate Ma. Patricia Agbulos.

Professors Erwin Alampay of the National College of Public Administration and Benjamin Vallejo Jr. of the College of Science, science instructor Rodrigo Ong, Ideacorp CEO Emmanuel Lallana and Civika Asian Development Academy managing director Elmer Soriano also contributed to the report. —WITH A REPORT FROM MARIEJO S. RAMOS

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TAGS: coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19 Philippines, health crisis, pandemic, Quarantine, Teachers, testing
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