President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday approved the pilot implementation of face-to-face classes in selected schools in low-risk areas for the whole month of January next year.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte approved the recommendation of the Department of Education (DepEd) for such a plan.
Roque said the DepEd will coordinate with the country's COVID-19 National Task Force in implementing the dry run, which will follow strict health and safety measures.
"We need to emphasize that face-to-face classes in schools where this may be allowed will not be compulsory, but rather voluntary on the part of the learner/parents," Roque said.
"Having said this, a parent’s permit needs to be submitted for the student to participate in face-to-face classes."
In July, Duterte said he was prohibiting in-person classes until a COVID-19 vaccine became available in the country. He said face-to-face classes may resume in January next year.
Classes in public schools in the country opened in October under a blended distance learning system due to the continuing threat of COVID-19.
Philippine cases top 450,000
The Philippines logged on Monday 1,339 new cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) bringing the total to 450,733, the Department of Health (DOH) reported.
It was the 15th straight day that new COVID-19 cases counted fewer than 2,000, and the 3rd straight day below the 1,500-mark.
Top cities and provinces with new cases are Quezon City, 147; Davao City, 124; Rizal, 65; Laguna, 50; and Manila, 49.
The DOH reported 24 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 8,757, which is 1.94 percent of the total.
The DOH also reported 41 patients who recently recovered, bringing the total recoveries to 418,723, which is 92.9 percent of the total.
The DOH also said there are 23,253 active cases in the country, which is 5.2 percent of the total.
Of the active cases, 85.1 percent are mild; 5.7 percent are asymptomatic; 5.9 percent are critical; 3 percent are severe; and 0.32 percent are moderate.
Hospital brace for surge
Two COVID-19 referral hospitals in Metro Manila have prepared in advance for a possible surge in coronavirus cases following the holidays, their officials said Monday.
The Philippine General Hospital (PGH) has continued its coronavirus operations since it became a referral center last March 30, said spokesperson Jonas del Rosario.
“We're ready. The number of our COVID beds remain. The COVID operations of PGH continue,” he told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo.
The Lung Center of the Philippines, meantime, has 27 virus patients out of its 70-bed capacity for COVID, according to Antonio Ramos, head of its administrative services.
“That’s 37 percent occupancy rate for COVID so we can look at more non-COVID patients. But if needed, we can revert the beds back to COVID designation,” he said.
No drinking, singing please
Filipinos should not dine or drink in large groups over the Christmas holidays to lower the risk of transmitting the coronavirus, a researcher said Monday.
The government also urged local officials to prohibit karaoke in their respective areas as singing loudly would also increase the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Filipinos are urged to limit gatherings to 10 people during Christmas celebrations, said University of the Philippines professor Guido David, also a member of OCTA Research Group.
David warned that a COVID-19 surge may happen in one to two months if the public does not observe minimum health standards during the holidays.
BI backs COVID-19 passport
The Bureau of Immigration (BI) supported the proposals to introduce a COVID-19 passport for international travelers, saying it will speed up immigration processing at the airports and facilitate the revival of the tourism and travel industry in the country.
In a statement, BI Commissioner Jaime Morente expressed the bureau’s support for initiatives to create a global COVID-19 passport that, according to the Department of Tourism (DOT), would usher in the entry of more tourists as it would streamline entry procedures.
Morente said current procedures requiring arriving international travelers to be tested at the airport could pose problems to the BI in the near future as the country reopens its borders to more foreigners, especially tourists.
20 arrested at baptism
More than 20 persons who attended a baptism reception were arrested by authorities at the Manila North Cemetery on Saturday for holding a mass gathering amid the coronavirus pandemic.
According to a “24 Oras Weekend” report, the Manila Police District (MPD) rushed to the venue after being tipped off on the event.
What they found were groups of people singing karaoke and huddled together on tables, many of them not wearing masks.
A few children were also at the reception.
The parents of the child who was baptized were among those arrested.
A guest admitted knowing that mass gatherings were banned amid the pandemic.