UP experts propose no classes until December to stop COVID-19 spread

By CNN Philippines Staff

Experts from the University of the Philippines told President Rodrigo Duterte that canceling classes until December would be an effective way to limit further COVID-19 infections.

Dr. Mahar Lagmay represented a group of scientists and academic researchers from the UP System during the President’s consultation meeting with experts on Monday, as he decides on the fate of the Luzon-wide lockdown.

Lagmay presented some of the group’s recommendations in a Tuesday press briefing in Malacañang, which included the suspension of classroom-based lectures until the year ends.

Base doon sa mga model, kapag tayo ay walang klase hanggang December — at ito po ay nirerekomenda — ay malaki ang maibabawas natin sa transmission ng COVID-19 [Based on our models, if we don’t hold classes until December — and we are recommending this — it will be a big help in reducing COVID-19 transmissions,” Lagmay said.

The executive director of the UP Pandemic Response Team added that 56 percent of interactions among age groups happen among those aged 19 and younger — meaning they are most likely to come in contact with the elderly and infect them, thus the recommendation.

The virus, which mostly targets the lungs, has proven to be more damaging to senior citizens as well as those with preexisting medical conditions.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque later said that the UP team suggested class suspensions until the college level, although another expert from the group pointed out that this would also mean that no new doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals will be able to join the workforce this year.

He clarified that the President has not decided on the matter, as well as if he will ease or extend strict lockdown protocols implemented in Luzon.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones told CNN Philippines early Tuesday that her agency is now considering to reset the opening of classes to August as a safety measure.

The school year under the K+12 basic education program usually opens early June. However, Briones said the law allows a longer window to start classes “up to the last day of August.” However, the Department of Education may require “stay-at-home” classes every Saturday so that the next school year can still end by March as scheduled.

The Cabinet official earlier tested positive for COVID-19.

DepEd earlier announced that graduation rites in the country will be postponed indefinitely due to government restrictions against the infectious disease, while final examinations for the current school year have been canceled. Teachers have been told to use the students’ current class standings as basis for their final grades this year.

Classes have been suspended in Metro Manila since March 10, or more than month now, following the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine that has been extended until April 30. The quarantine has forced most of the over 57 million people living in the island group to stay home except for those rendering vital services.

Some universities opted to continue classes through online lectures and video conferencing, while others have resorted to giving pass or fail marks so students can proceed to the next academic year and level.

Majority of DepEd’s scheduled programs, including preparations for the openings, have also been put on hold due to the quarantine protocols.

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