ALL 24 private and state-run higher education institutions (HEIs) that conducted limited face-to-face classes since January have reported zero transmission of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) said yesterday.
But Higher Education Secretary Prospero de Vera II, interviewed over public briefing “Laging Handa,” said the surge of COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal this month prompted a suspension of F2F sessions for universities and colleges located in those areas.
With “the NCR Plus” bubble under enhanced community quarantine with the highest level of restriction, the HEIs have reverted to full online classes until the situation improves while HEIs outside the ECQ bubble are continuing limited F2F lessons.
“We have not encountered any problem with the limited face-to-face classes since universities acted very responsibly. They promptly suspended face-to-face classes even before the ECQ was declared over NCR and nearby provinces,” De Vera said.
De Vera said the 24 HEIs have been holding limited F2F classes for more than two months, or right after President Duterte approved it at the turn of the year. He said no student or teacher has tested positive for the deadly virus in that time span.
“This only shows that the schools made sound preparations and that they have an effective coordination mechanism with local governments. We want to assure parents that, even when we hold limited face to face classes, we are not putting your children at risk,” De Vera said.
He explained that under the guidelines agreed upon between the CHED and the Department of Health, any uptick of COVID incidence will be the basis for an automatic suspension of F2F and reversion to online learning.
De Vera said the applicability of F2F and online-only classes would be reviewed again next semester depending on the prevailing conditions in a locality.
“We will have to see the situation on the ground. The commission does not issue policies that will cover the entire country. There cannot be a one-size-fits-all policy since there are different COVID-19 conditions on the ground,” he said.
De Vera added that HEIs that offered F2F classes are also stepping forward to assist the government’s vaccination drive.
“The six universities that we allowed to hold F2F classes starting January have offered their facilities as vaccination centers. This includes Saint Louis University in Baguio City, UST (University of Sto. Tomas) here in Metro Manila and the Our Lady of Fatima University,” he said.
He added the DOH is also in talks with 30 other universities that have completed retrofitting works to make their facilities more adaptive to the challenges of the pandemic.
“Once they are done retrofitting, they make their areas very safe. They put up signage, health protocols are put in place, and there is due observance for physical distancing. They also have facilities like gyms which are very ideal for mass vaccination,” he said.