THE Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has inspected all the universities and colleges in Cebu City, especially those that offer medical courses, in anticipation of the return of college students to the classrooms, it was revealed Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021.

This comes after Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles announced Wednesday that the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases had approved the conduct of phased in-person classes for all programs at the college level as proposed by the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) in areas under Alert Level 3 and below.

Cebu is under Alert Level 2.

Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera, deputy chief implementer of the IATF-Cebu City EOC, said the city’s EOC team composed of representatives from the Department of Health (DOH), Ched and the EOC had inspected laboratories, classrooms and other facilities related to medical courses.

“We were the first ones in Cebu City to create a team. We have four teams actually, headed by doctors and nurses who are counterparts in the DOH and Ched. So all universities with medical courses have already been inspected,” Garganera said.

The EOC official welcomed the decision of the IATF to allow limited in-person classes for all college programs, saying: “In fact, we already started earlier with Ched about allowing medical courses, Tesda (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) and related courses for face-to-face, marine courses included. However, we have requisites for this.”

IATF Resolution 148-G states: “Based under the Guidelines on the Nationwide Implementation of Alert Levels System for Covid-19 Response, limited face-to-face classes are now allowed under Alert Levels 1, 2 and 3, subject to certain conditions (e.g. 50 percent indoor venue capacity, no opposition from the local government unit concerned, participation of fully vaccinated teaching and non-teaching personnel and students only).”

Garganera said he will create more inspection teams as he said other universities were already ready for face-to-face classes.

“If you recall, bar exams will be held here in Cebu, so we have created a composite team for the bar, EOC and schools. We have inspected areas for the bar exam. The bar exam is special because it is the first time to be held outside Metro Manila and due to the pandemic now,” he said.

Garganera said they had inspected the University of Cebu, University of San Carlos and University of San Jose-Recoletos.

Garganera said the City’s Quick Response Team and EOC would be on top of the situation because “we will be calling on the different schools for their response just in case anyone turns out positive. We cannot allow discrimination to take place, like just because a student is positive doesn’t mean we will refuse him/her to take the exam.”

He said a student who tested positive for Covid-19 would be isolated in a way that would allow him to continue to take the exams.

“There is presence of medical personnel. Everything will be taken care of in that aspect as well as the checking of temperature, vital signs etc. There is a program wherein they take a PCR test every two weeks and with the advent of the vaccination now, they are all fully vaccinated,” the EOC official said.

Garganera said the Philippine Regulation Commission had informed him Thursday that there were exams lined up for December.

“Fully vaccinated and if not fully vaccinated, they have to present the PCR test results,” Garganera said.

Garganera said his team would place emphasis on ventilation, meaning all windows in the classrooms should be opened to ensure that fresh air circulates.

The Visayas Vaccination Operations Center (VVOC) welcomed the resumption of in-person classes at the college level.

“It is time to move forward and onwards to continue in the nurture and development of our future leaders and members of the society,” said VVOC spokesperson Dr. Mary Jean Loreche in a statement. “The national guidelines have been released and furthermore, the VVOC will be helping Ched, should they need our assistance, to fine-tune the guidelines as seen on the ground that will further help secure our children, students and the entire education community.”

Under IATF Resolution 148-G, higher education institutions in Alert Level 2 areas may apply during the first phase of the implementation that starts in December 2021. Areas under Alert Level 3 may apply for the second phase of implementation, which will be from Jan. 22, 2022.

The IATF earlier allowed the conduct of limited face-to-face classes in selected programs such as medicine, engineering, and hotel and restaurant management. (CAL, JOB, TPM / SUNSTAR PHILIPPINES)