MANILA, Philippines – The conduct of limited face-to-face classes in select higher education institutions (HEI) has been temporarily suspended amid the surge in COVID-19 cases in the country, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) said.
During the Laging Handa public briefing on Tuesday, CHED Commissioner Prospero de Vera III said HEIs that were allowed to conduct limited in-person classes, especially those in areas that were under the enhanced community quarantine, have temporarily canceled their physical classes.
A total of 24 universities and colleges nationwide offering allied health science courses have been allowed to hold limited face-to-face classes following the approval of President Rodrigo Duterte in January.
But De Vera clarified that HEIs in the National Capital Region (NCR), Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna have already suspended their limited in-person classes since these are classified as COVID-19 high incidence areas.
The NCR and four nearby areas – collectively tagged as NCR Plus – are under ECQ until April 4.
Some HEIs even pulled out their clinical interns before there was a surge in COVID-19 cases.
“Bago pa mag-issue ang IATF [Inter-Agency Task Force] nitong ECQ, ay actually itinigil na nila,” he said.
“Unang-una, binawi nila yung mga estudyante galing sa mga ospital dahil yang mga ospital mismo eh nagsabi na mataas na ang incidence ng COVID at hindi masyadong ligtas ang mga batang pumunta doon si pinull-out na nila yung clinical interns nila even before tumaas, nagsisimula tumaas yung COVID cases,” he added.
In low-risk areas, on the other hand, De Vera said limited in-person classes are still ongoing.
“At dito sa NCR, lahat noong limited face-to-face ay nakatigil habang kinu-control natin ang virus. Pero sa ibang mga lugar sa Pilipinas na hindi naman naka-ECQ, doon ay mayroon pang limited face-to-face (classes),” he said.
De Vera said that based on the joint guidelines issued by CHED and the Department of Health, the conduct of limited in-person classes will be suspended if the cases of COVID-19 in those areas continue to increase or if a student contracts the virus.
“Ang guidelines nito eh ‘pag may nag-positive sa mga estudyante, automatic, itinitigil ang limited face to face. Hindi question ang kung ilan, kung meron, automatic ititigil. Yan ang guidelines,” he said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Joan Nano)