Duque contradicts Duterte, says resumption of classes in August is ‘safe’
MANILA, Philippines – Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Tuesday contradicted President Duterte when he said the scheduled resumption of classes on August 24, 2020 would be “safe” as long as minimum health standards are observed.
Duterte earlier said he will not allow the resumption of classes if a vaccine against COVID-19 is not yet available.
“Sa ngayon po tingin namin ay ligtas naman po kung bubuksan natin ang klase by August 24. Kinakailangan po rito siguraduhin lamang na ang lahat ng ating minimum standard for health ay nakatalaga,” Duque said in a Senate Health Commiittee hearing on Tuesday.
(As of now, we think it would be safe to open classes by August 24. We just need to ensure that the minimum standards for health are in place).
Among measures that would ensure the basic health standard in schools are the observation of physical/social distancing, frequent and proper handwashing and disinfection of classrooms, he added.
“Marami po tayong mga measures na katulad ng fever scanning or thermal scanning, pwedeng ma-adopt po ito ng bawat paaralan para titignan kung sino sa mga bata ang mga may sakit, Duque said.
(We have several measures like fever scanning or thermal scanning that schools can adopt to see which student is manifesting symptoms).
He said parents should also be advised not to send their kids to school if they are sick.
Duque also expressed confidence that DepEd has put in place health measures to ensure the safety of the students, teachers and school personnel.
“Tingin ko magiging ligtas naman po ang pagbubukas ng atin pong mga paaralan,” he reiterated.
(I think the opening of classes would be safe).
Later in the hearing, Duque acknowledged the President’s concern for the safety of the children as the country scrambles to contain the spread of the virus.
“I think children are certainly very valuable to President Duterte and he doesn’t want to compromise the health of the children. And we cannot risk the children going back when there is no vaccine, as what the President I understand has articulated,” the health secretary said in a manifestation.
“But we hope the vaccines will be available the soonest possible time…very important po ang bakuna. But habang wala pa naman pong bakuna siguraduhin na lang po natin yung mga (vaccines are very important. But in the absence of a vaccine, we should ensure) minimum health standards are provided, and are met to mitigate the risk to our school children,” he added.
The Department of Education (DepEd) earlier announced that classes in public schools for school year 2020-21 will start on August 24.
DepEd assured parents worrying about sending their children back to school amid the health crisis that there would be learning alternatives available.
Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan said the DepEd is eyeing the use of information communication technology platforms, television, and radio in delivering lessons to students during the pandemic.
To date, Philippine health officials have so far confirmed 14,319 COVID-19 cases in the country. Of the number, 3,323 have recovered while 873 have died.
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