Shanghai, Beijing schools re-open amid lingering virus worries

UNTV News   •   April 27, 2020   •   549

High school and middle school students in Shanghai and Beijing started returning to class on Monday (April 27), for the first time in three months after being closed to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

In Shanghai, students queued outside the school’s entrance with marks at a one-metre distance on the ground to maintain social distancing. They also had to pass through a thermal detector before seeing their classmates again.

Although the city has not reported any new domestic cases for a while, parents still had some apprehension about the change.

“I am only worried about the development of the epidemic when school reopens – nothing else to worry about. After all, children are still very young and they know nothing about hygiene. They need some guidance from teachers,” said Sun Zhiping, a father who sent his child to school.

In Beijing, parent Sha Li said she was happy with the measures being taken at her child’s school, including assigned seating and plastic shields.

“Teachers had detailed plans in place two weeks ago. This is way beyond any parent’s expectation,” she said. Students writing high school and college entrance exams in Beijing were allowed back into class, although many schools in the country’s capital remain closed.

Schools in Shanghai have been closed since January, with the outbreak leading to an extended winter break that lasted until the semester on March 2 with online classes.

According to Shanghai’s education commission, schools will make preparations to resume classes for other grades before May 6 with the specific timing to be announced by each school.

Shanghai is still dealing with imported cases of the virus, including 303 new ones as of the end of Sunday (April 26). (Reuters)

(Production: Xihao Jiang, Shubing Wang, Nanlin Fang)

UK declines PH offer to deploy more Filipino nurses in exchange for vaccines

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The United Kingdom (UK) government has declined the offer of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to deploy more nurses to the UK in exchange for vaccines.

UK Ambassador to the Philippines Daniel Pruce said the recruitment of nurses and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines are two separate issues.

“We’ve got no plans to link vaccines with those conversations around the recruitment of nurses. You know those two strands of conversation I think continue but as I’ve said again we have no plans to link those two issues,” he said during a virtual conference.

DOLE Silvestre Bello III proposed forming an agreement with the UK to lift the deployment cap of healthcare workers, provided the UK would allocate vaccines for them. Bello also made the same proposal with Germany.

DOLE Information and Publication Service (IPS) Director Rolly Francia clarified the proposal was to make sure the nurses are safe when deployed abroad and not for the country to have additional supply of COVID-19 vaccines. This was after the proposal drew ire for making nurses look like ‘commodities’ to be exchanged for vaccines.

“What Secretary Bello wants is to ensure that the nurse gets vaccinated if ever the request for an exemption in the cap would be granted by the President,” Francia said.

Nevertheless, Ambassador Pruce said he will meet with Bello in the coming weeks to further discuss the issue. AAC (with reports from Janice Ingente)

Senators want pilot testing of 100 schools for in-person classes

Robie de Guzman   •   February 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Several senators are pushing for the conduct of pilot testing of face-to-face classes, citing the need for immediate experience to help fine-tune the reopening of physical classes in schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Senator Francis Pangilinan urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to pilot the in-person classes to an initial 100 schools instead of the suggested 1,605.

“Kung mayroong UK variant at natatakot doon sa pagkalat, e di bawasan natin ang pilot areas, gawin nating isang daan muna. Ang importante, mayroon tayong pagkukunan ng karanasan ngayon pa lang at hindi iyong pagdating doon sa dulo saka natin gagawin dahil nakaangkla tayo sa isang libo,” Pangilinan said in a statement.

DepEd Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan earlier said that they initially chose 1,065 schools, or five schools per division, to participate in the dry run of face-to-face classes.

Malaluan said that this figure is equivalent to only over two percent of the more than 47,000 public schools in the country.

“Baka naman pupuwedeng mayroon kayong alternative just to be able to get a system going and be able to fine-tune. Ang importante napa-pilot at nakikita iyong mga gaps so that when you expand it even to 1,065, you already have the experience of 500 or 300 to work around and to work on the necessary adjustments,” Pangilinan said.

“We need the experience now, we need the lessons drawn now because we don’t have the luxury of time,” he added.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chairperson of Senate committee on basic education, arts, and culture, also expressed support for the dry run of in-person classes.

“’’Di naman po ibig sabihin na kinancel yung face-to-face, titigil na rin tayo sa pilot schools. This is a good way for our scientists to study what can be done to mitigate the effects of COVID-19,” he said in a separate statement.

DepEd earlier proposed the pilot testing of limited face-to-face classes in 1,605 schools, citing an internal DepEd survey that clamor is from the learners themselves.

The pilot testing was scheduled in January but it was postponed by President Rodrigo Duterte due to the continuing threat of COVID-19.

DepEd made a fresh bid for the resumption of physical classes in areas classified as low-risk for COVID-19 transmission this month, citing a survey that showed more than 50% of students were in favor of attending face-to-face classes.

It was still rejected by Duterte as he stressed that classes will only resume once the vaccination against COVID-19 starts.

600,000 doses of China’s CoronaVac to arrive in PH on Feb. 28 — Palace

Marje Pelayo   •   February 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — A Palace official confirmed that the initial shipment of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine is set to arrive in the Philippines soon.

According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, a total of 600,000 doses of CoronaVac from China’s pharmaceutical firm Sinovac Biotech will be arriving on Sunday (February 28).

The official thanked China for its donations which will be used in the initial vaccine rollout of the government. 

Concerned officials from the national government will be welcoming the arrival of the vaccines in person on Sunday.

“Inaasahan na darating ang araw ng linggo, itong araw ng linggo pong ito ang Sinovac kaya po excited na tayong lahat,” Roque said.

“Inaasahan po at at least pinaplano natin na sasalubunin po ng mga opisyal ang pagdating ng mga bakuna,” he added.

Meanwhile, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian said the vaccines serve as ‘testament’ to the two countries’ diplomatic relationship.

“It is a fine tradition between China and the Philippines to help each other in trying times. A friend in need is a friend indeed. The donation of vaccines is another testament to the solidarity as well as profound friendship and partnership between our two peoples and two countries,” he said.

With the arrival of CoronaVac supplies, the government is expected to begin the roll out of COVID-19 immunization on Monday (March 1) with medical frontliners as the among the initial priorities despite advised from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that the vaccine is not advisable for individuals with high exposure to COVID-19 positive cases.

First in the line to get the COVID-19 vaccine shot will be the spokesperson of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) and COVID-19 survivor, Dr. Jonas del Rosario.

“What we need is one day and we will roll out. So if it arrives on Sunday, if I’m not mistaken, we can rollout on Monday dahil excited na excited na po ang maraming kababayan natin,” Roque said.

The Palace official stressed, meanwhile, that the public should look into the positive side of vaccination regardless of which brand as long as it is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as it can help address the current problems in relation to the pandemic.

But according to Dr. Garardo Legaspi, Director of UP-PGH, the initial survey among their staff revealed that about 90% of the hospital’s healthcare workers pre-registered and agreed to get a vaccine shot.

Although the survey, however, offered them Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and not the Chinese brand.

“Hindi ko masasabi kung ilan ang darating talaga. We are trying to manage the understanding of the EUA given to Sinovac kaya po siguro over the next few days, kailangan naming i-thresh out ang ibig sabihin ng fda na mas magiging very useful for our health workers to make their decision,” Legaspi explained.

The other survey, meanwhile, revealed that 75% of the staff agreed to be vaccinated regardless of brand.

“Hindi naman porket nabakunahan ng this particular vaccine na Sinovac ay walang proteksyon. Ang ibig lang sabihin, ang proteksyon niya ay hindi as high to prevent mild symptoms from occurring, which probably magiging dahilan ito para hindi makapasok ang healthcare workers sa ospital,” Legaspi noted.

“Siguro iyon ang basis ng FDA para sabihin na hindi siya ideal para sa healthcare workers dahil kahit mild symptom, hindi sila papasok pag nagkaroon sila ng mild symptom at mababawasan ang manpower sa ating ospital,” he added.

Legaspi further said that so far, all the vaccines which the FDA has granted approval — Sinovac, Pfizer and Astrazeneca— promise 100 percent protection against severe conditions related to COVID-19. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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