Malacañang on Sunday said schools have a free hand to suspend classes
following President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of public health emergency in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak.
READ: Public emergency code red over virus
Some local governments have already called off classes this week after the Department of Health confirmed the sixth COVID-19 case and the local transmission of the virus.
“It is upon the discretion of school authorities. Of course, they are the ones deciding on that. They are the administrators. They can suspend, they can reschedule to make up for absences,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a radio interview.
Students in Navotas City and Taytay, Rizal have no classes on Monday and those in Cainta will have no classes until Tuesday.
Panelo previously said the President might consider the shutdown of schools for a while just like what the Japanese government did to contain the virus.
READ: Duterte plans school shutdown
He also said President Duterte will issue an executive order on Monday directing the Health department to declare a public health emergency in response to the COVID-19.
But Health Secretary Franciso Duque III said it was “not yet right” to suspend classes.
In an interview over radio dzMM, Duque was asked to comment on the proposal of Navotas City Mayor Toby Tiangco to cancel classes from March 9.
Duque noted there was no evidence that they have a transmission of the disease there.
“The class suspension is their strategy, their decision. They will be the ones accountable for their decisions,” said Duque.
The Health chief pointed out that the cancellation of classes and work will be recommended under Code Red, Sub-level 2, which will be prompted by the presence of “community transmission” where the source of COVID-19 cases can no longer be traced.
“The signal is sustained community transmission beyond capacity. This means, there are already many places with COVID-19 which can no longer be connected,” he said.
Tiangco also suggested giving students automatic passing grades, as precautionary move in light of the spread of the respiratory disease.
He suspended Monday’s classes in his city. Cainta and Taytay town in Rizal made similar announcements Saturday.
On Saturday, Duque announced that the country’s first case of COVID-19 local transmission is a 62-year-old man who has no known travel history abroad. He was said to be a regular visitor of a prayer hall in San Juan.
The patient, who is the country’s fifth COVID-19 case, is in “critical condition” at RITM in Muntinlupa City where his wife, the sixth confirmed case was also admitted.
Duque said the 62-year-old has other pre-existing health conditions like diabetes, hypertension, enlarged prostate, and kidney problem. The couple’s children, Duque said, tested negative.
The Department of Health on Saturday raised the country’s alert system for the new coronavirus to Code Red, Sub-level 1.
Duque said this is a “preemptive call” for authorities and health workers to “prepare for possible increase in suspected and confirmed cases.
He also called on various institutions to coordinate with the DOH when sharing information with regards to the COVID-19.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Sunday said he will support a proposal to cut short the school year in response to the COVID-19 threat.
Guevarra, a member of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease which is expected to meet today, said he would defer to the guidance of the Department of Health on the issue of suspension of classes.
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