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DOH, DepEd: No need to suspend classes yet over virus

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Children wearing face masks cross a road during a Lunar New Year of the Rat public holiday in Hong Kong on 27 January 2020. (AFP)

There is no need to suspend classes over fears of being infected with the deadly novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

Duque allayed fears of nCoV in the country following reports that some Chinese private schools in Metro Manila, particularly with teachers and students whose family members travel to and from China, have suspended classes as a precaution against the virus.

He said there are no confirmed cases in the Philippines yet, although there are currently 11 foreigners “under investigation” for possible infection.

“So far as the DOH is concerned, we are not aware of the reasons why they decided to suspend classes. There is really no need as of now, there is no indication,” Duque said in a press briefing in Malacañang on Monday.

He said the actions of these schools are not within the DOH interim guidelines on nCoV.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones, for her part, pointed out while local governments have the authority to declare the suspension of classes in public schools, it was a slightly different case for the private sector.

“Private sector schools have a greater degree of autonomy than a public sector schools,” Briones said.

Regardless of whether a private school suspended classes or not, Briones said what matter is that students do not lose the number of days face-to-face interaction with the teachers that is required by law.

Republic Act No. 7977 sets the school calendar to a maximum of 220 class days.

Meanwhile, Briones said schools could also hold make-up classes for the class days lost during suspension.

“I would advise these schools to consult with the Department of Health and with the local government. But as far as we in DepEd are concerned, since they’re relatively autonomous, they should not miss out on the number of school days for the learners,” Briones said.

She said the DepEd takes it lead from the DOH and their advisories on matters of health.

“Whatever challenges, whatever memorandum, whatever tips they give we immediately pass on to our schools for implementation and for compliance,” Briones said.

The nCoV was first discovered in Wuhan City in Hubei province in China on 7 January 7 this year.  (PNA)

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