To suspend or not to suspend: Sans DOH order mayors, schools cancel classes amid rising COVID-19 cases

March 9, 2020 - 3:59 PM
Woman walks near an empty departures gate at Haneda Airport in Tokyo
A woman walks near an empty departures gate at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Japan, March 9, 2020. (Reuters/Stoyan Nenov)

A number of local government units and academic institutions already called off classes in both public and private schools after the surge of new confirmed cases over the weekend.

The cancellation of classes were made despite the health agency’s pronouncement that suspension of classes is not yet necessary.

The cities of Navotas, San Juan and Marikina declared class suspensions on Monday, March 9. Marikina City extended the cancellation of classes until Wednesday, March 11.

The city of Manila announced a week-long class suspension from March 9 to 15 on all levels in the private and public sector.

The city of Caloocan also did the same from March 10 to 11 to pave way for the disinfection of the school facilities.

In Calabarzon, only the municipalities of Cainta and Taytay in Rizal have declared class suspensions. Taytay only called off the March 9 classes while Cainta extended the suspension until Tuesday, March 10.

Manila Tytana Colleges, Trinity University of Asia, Assumption College and the Bagong Lipunan Crame Elementary School and High School have also announced the same on Monday.

These announcements came after the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 rose to 20 as of March 9.

The Department of Health also raised Code Red Sub-Level 1 last Saturday.

In a statement, the DOH clarified that “this is a preemptive call to ensure that national and local governments and public and private health care providers can prepare for possible increase in suspected and confirmed cases.”

“With this Code Red, the DOH has recommended to the Office of the President for the declaration of Public Health Emergency which will facilitate mobilization of resources and ease processes, including procurement of critical logistics and supplies and intensifying reporting and quarantine measures.”

It also posted an infographic on Code Red (Alert Level 4) on its Facebook page.

Kaugnay ng pagkumpirma ng DOH sa localized transmission ng COVID-19 sa bansa, itinaas na ng DOH ang COVID-19 Alert…

Posted by Department of Health (Philippines) on Saturday, March 7, 2020

President Rodrigo Duterte then declared a state of public health emergency upon the health agency’s recommendation last Sunday.

Despite these circumstances, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said based on the alert level, it’s not yet necessary to call off classes or work.

“Hindi muna dapat siguro ginawa iyon. But that’s their decision, being independent or being covered under the local government code, that’s their own decision. But, as of today, we are on sublevel 1 of Code Red and that is not being recommended,” Duque said.

To suspend or not to suspend classes?

Some Filipinos on local Twitter has a different view on the cancellation of classes, arguing that deferring it would keep the students safe.

The hashtag #WalangPasok, used to track class suspensions, trended on Twitter Philippines on March 8 with at least 29,000 tweets.

Screenshot by Interaksyon

Similarly, the hashtag #WalangMayor also made it to the trending list the next day with 1,331 tweets.

Screenshot by Interaksyon

“Not just Manila, pero pwede bang buong ncr l, mga mayors? Imagine students travelling from one city to another, iba’t ibang tao nakakasalamuha,” Twitter user @HeiXiCas said.

Another user compared the country’s situation to Saudi Arabia‘s, which recently issued a temporary lockdown in the province where all its 11 positive cases lived.

One Twitter user suggested that the suspension period should be imposed for two weeks or 14 days, citing the virus’ incubation period, among other preventive measures.

Metro Manila mayors’ call

DOH recorded two new cases last Friday and another four on Sunday.

It announced ten more new cases on Monday afternoon.

Navotas Mayor Toby Tiangco, who was among the first mayors who declared class suspensions, later requested the Department of Education to pass all the students’ grades and suspend the remaining classes for the school year.

Based on DepEd’s calendar, the school year of 2019-2020 will end on April 3.

“I urge DepEd to automatically grant passing grades to all students so they do not have to attend classes anymore,” Tiangco said.

Tiangco’s request of passing students’ grades earned some criticisms online for supposedly “promoting mediocrity and laziness.

Despite criticisms, former senator JV Ejercito said Tiangco’s call to pass all the students is “worth considering.”

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso, meanwhile, cited the alert level’s conditions to explain why he initially did not declare class suspensions.

This later changed after receiving criticisms from his constituents.

‪Ayon po sa payo ni DOH Sec Duque, ng health experts ng Manila Health Dept, hindi po kailangan isuspinde ang klase dahil…

Posted by Isko Moreno Domagoso on Sunday, March 8, 2020

Makati Mayor Abby Binay decided on cleaning and disinfecting the city instead of postponing classes.

This was shared on the Facebook page My Makati, the official page of the city government of Makati.

“Tinitiyak ni Mayor Abby Binay sa mga magulang at mag-aaral na nagsagawa ang pamahalaang lungsod ng paglilinis at pag-disinfect sa lahat ng pampublikong paaralan at lugar sa Makati,” the post read.

May pasok sa lahat ng antas ng paaralan sa Makati bukas, March 9, 2020. Tinitiyak ni Mayor Abby Binay sa mga magulang…

Posted by My Makati on Sunday, March 8, 2020

It also issued other preventive measures to schools such as prohibiting crowd gathering activities, wearing protective masks and avoiding any close contact interactions for now.