Gov't urged: Assess readiness of schools under pilot face-to-face classes

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 21) — The government may have green-lighted the pilot run of limited in-person classes in some areas of the country, but how ready are schools that will be covered by this policy?

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source, former pandemic response task force adviser Dr. Tony Leachon on Tuesday cited the risks of returning to school amid the spread of the highly transmissible Delta COVID-19 variant.

"With the presence of the surge right now, we are averaging 20,000 cases per day and we have a positivity rate of 26% (which means) one in every four will become positive," Leachon said. "I think we need first to prepare the schools, the teachers, and students before we actually work on the face-to-face classes."

Leachon said that there may still be some breakthrough infections among teachers and school personnel who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

He also raised the need to assess the ventilation, sanitation, school infrastructure, and even mass transportation that may put returning schoolchildren at risk.

RELATED: Delayed in-person classes 'self-inflicted' by PH's pandemic response — health reform advocate 

Raymond Basilio, secretary general of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, expressed a similar sentiment about supporting the needs of teachers, students, and schools that will be covered by the pilot run.

"Tama si Dr. Leachon kanina, ang dahilan talaga dito ay 'yung kapalpakan sa pag-address ng COVID-19 sa ating bansa," he said.

[Translation: Dr. Leachon is correct, the real reason here is the failure of the government to address COVID-19 in the country.]

"Hindi namin pinipigilan ang face-to-face classes dahil 'pag pinigilan namin ito ibig sabihin ay titigil na rin ang gobyerno sa paghahanda, titigil na rin ang gobyerno sa paggawa ng paraan upang maging possible ang pagbubukas ng ating eskwelahan," he added.

[Translation: We are not against face-to-face classes because if we reject this, that would mean that the government will stop preparing and will stop looking for solutions to make school reopenings possible.]

Basilio and Leachon both called for ramped up testing, tracing, and vaccination among teachers and students before going back to school to protect them from the virus.

But children may gradually be included in government's vaccination drive only by the fourth quarter of 2021, when the bulk of vaccines arrive, the government previously said.

As of Sept. 14, the Philippines and Venezuela were the only remaining countries that have not reopened schools, the United Nations Children’s Fund or UNICEF reported.