PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte stood by his decision to allow the resumption of face-to-face classes only if majority of the Filipinos are vaccinated against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
The President made the decision amid the threat posed by the Delta variant of Sars-CoV-2, which has been shown to be 60 percent more contagious.
The Delta variant, B.1.617, originated in India. Its sub-lineage B.1.617.2 has been found to be highly transmissible, with an infected person passing on the virus to eight other people. The probability of getting severe Covid-19 is also high because of this variant’s immune escape capability.
“Iyong face-to-face. Ma'am, we might differ in our opinions about the matter but for as long as there is really no vaccination, all,” he told Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor Briones in a televised public address on Monday evening, June 21, 2021.
“Ang sa ano, ma'am, dito sa face-to-face, I think I am not inclined to agree with you. I'm sorry but mahirap. I... I cannot... I cannot gamble on the health of the children. I hope you'd understand,” he added.
Upon hearing the President’s decision, Briones immediately withdrew DepEd’s request to allow limited face-to-face classes in at least 100 schools in the country.
“I came hoping for support for our learning continuity program na maski 100 pilot... We identified actually, Mr. President, 1,900 schools which might qualify. We kept on bringing it down na we said maski 100,” said Briones.
“But listening to the briefing and listening to your decision, we don’t have any reservations because we all know the effect. And especially the idea, Mr. President, having also our children vaccinated because we are told that children are now more prone and perhaps are vulnerable, and we would not want to risk 27 million children and our teachers,” she added.
Briones said the Deped will remain prepared should the situation improve and face-to-face classes may be resumed.
Briones earlier expressed concern over the possible impact of the prolonged school closure to the psychosocial welfare of students.
She also noted that the Philippines is the only country in Southeast Asia that has not resumed face-to-face classes even at a limited capacity.
As of June 20, 2021, the Department of Health said only 2,153,942 Filipinos have been fully vaccinated out of 6,253,400 who have received one dose. (Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo / SunStar Philippines)