THREE universities and colleges offering medical and allied health programs in Cebu have applied for authority to conduct limited face-to-face classes amid the coronavirus pandemic.

They are the University of Cebu-Mandaue, the Southwestern University Phinma and the Cebu Institute of Medicine.

“We have only three, so far, that submitted their applications. These are for clerkship, for hospital-based training of our medical students,” said Maximo Aljibe, Commission on Higher Education (Ched) 7 director, during the Regional Development Council’s first full council meeting for 2021.

The Palace earlier announced that private and public medical schools in areas under the modified general community quarantine status and similar universities and colleges with base hospitals that cater to Covid-19 patients could gradually reopen campuses and resume limited face-to-face classes.

These programs include medicine, medical technology, midwifery, nursing, physical therapy and public health.

Aljibe, however, emphasized that this is not mandatory as the schools must be willing to assume responsibilities to comply with requirements, including the prescribed minimum health and safety protocols.

Among the general guidelines are the reduction of risk of Covid-19 transmission by proper and regular wearing of personal protective equipment and reduction of contact, among others.

The minimum physical distancing that should be followed is 1.5 meters and no face-to-face extracurricular activities are allowed.

He said based on the joint circular issued by Ched and the Department of Health (DOH) on Feb. 10, which provides the guidelines, schools intending to reopen must submit their applications to the Ched regional office. The authority or the permit to be issued will be valid for one school year.

Students who will attend the face-to-face classes will be registered to the medical insurance program of the state health insurer.

After Ched verifies the completeness of the school’s documents, an evaluation team (composed of personnel from Ched, the local government unit, DOH, and Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) will inspect the school’s retro-fitted facilities.

If the school still has to improve retrofitting, Aljibe said the school will implement flexible learning while another on-site inspection may be conducted once improvements are done.

He said they will not conduct on-site inspection for clerkship in schools with base hospitals and will just be referring to the notarized documents and certification that will be issued by the DOH.

Last May, President Rodrigo Duterte rejected moves to resume face-to-face classes in areas with eased quarantine protocols, saying unless a coronavirus vaccine was available he would not change his mind. The Philippines expects delivery of vaccines in the coming days. (WBS)