U.P. mulls university-wide distance learning amid coronavirus crisis

Marje Pelayo   •   March 10, 2020   •   636

University of the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – The spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has posed a major challenge among schools and universities in the country.

To address possible learning setbacks due to COVID-19, the University of the Philippines (UP) is considering the use of an online platform as an alternative to classroom school setting.

UP Executive Vice President Dr. Teodoro Herbosa said they might ask all 54,000 students in all eight UP campuses across the country to defer coming to school until the end of the term in May should COVID-19 further spread.

Herbosa said distance learning is what schools in other virus-stricken countries are doing at this time of coronavirus outbreak such as in the United States, Singapore and South Korea.

“All their classes are now online. May program tapos nakikita ng teacher ang mga estudyante. Nagdi-discuss sila, nakakagawa sila ng project. Nagsa-submit sila by email pero nasa bahay sila, (They have a program and the teacher sees the students [online]. They have discussions, they do their projects, they submit through email even if they are at home),” he said.

Herbosa said they are currently collaborating with their colleagues from the UP Open University who have been conducting distance learning to students in different places even to overseas Filipino workers (OFW).

The Commission of Higher Education (CHED), meanwhile, said they are leaving it to the administrators of State Colleges and Universities (SUCs) if they would prefer online classes.

CHED Chairperson Prospero de Vera noted, however, that not all SUCs are capable or have the facilities to conduct online classes.

“We leave that to the SUCs to decide. Not all SUCs have capability to do online learning. Some are already doing it even before the spread of the virus happened. Shifting from residential to online or mixed delivery system also requires a process from the academic council all the way to the board of regents,” De Vera said in a statement.

“CHED does not have the authority to mandate a shift in delivery of programs. SUCs do it through their Boards of Regents using CHED guidelines,” he concluded.

UP Open University has been offering online courses since 1995 and celebrated its 25 years of quality distance learning in February this year. – MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Pyongyang disinfects the city after North Korea introduced tougher curbs against coronavirus

UNTV News   •   July 29, 2020

North Korea’s state-run television on Tuesday (July 28) released a video of Pyongyang workers disinfecting the city as the state introduced tougher curbs against the coronavirus, after it locked down the town Kaesong, on the border with the South, to tackle what could be its first publicly confirmed infection.

Strict quarantine measures and the screening of districts were in progress and test kits, protective clothing and medical equipment were being supplied, the North’s KCNA state news agency said.

The measures come after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared an emergency on Sunday (July 26) after a person who defected to South Korea three years ago returned across the highly fortified demilitarised zone (DMZ) to Kaesong this month with symptoms of COVID-19, KCNA reported.

Reclusive North Korea had reported testing 1,211 people for the virus as of July 16 with all returning negative results, the World Health Organisation said in a statement sent to Reuters. The report said 696 nationals were under quarantine. (Reuters)

(Production: Minwoo Park)

Trump shifts rhetoric, warns virus is getting worse and urges use of masks

UNTV News   •   July 22, 2020

President Donald Trump warned Americans on Tuesday (July 21) that the toll from the novel coronavirus would get worse before it got better, and encouraged Americans to wear a mask if they cannot maintain social distance from people around them.

In his first briefing in months focused on the pandemic, Trump told reporters at the White House that the virus would probably get worse before it gets better, in one of his first recent acknowledgments of how bad the problem has become.

“Some areas of our country are doing very well. Others are doing less well. It will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better – something I don’t like saying about things, but that’s the way it is,” he said.

In a shift in rhetoric, Trump encouraged Americans to wear masks, and pulled a mask out of his pocket, saying he carries it around.

“I mean I carry the mask,” he said, before reaching into his pocket and pulling out a blue face mask. “And I will use it gladly, no problem with it, and I’ve said that. And I say, if you can, use the mask. When you can, use the mask. If you’re close to each other, if you’re in a group, I would put it on when I’m in a group.”

Trump, who downplayed the virus in its early stages and has been focused on reopening the economy in recent months despite an increase in cases, has been reluctant to wear a mask himself in public. He wore one for the first time in public during a recent visit to a military hospital but has otherwise eschewed putting one on in front of the press.

Mask-wearing has become a partisan issue, with some Trump supporters saying being required to do infringes on their liberties.

As coronavirus cases skyrocket across the country, including in politically important states such as Florida, Texas and Arizona, the president is shifting his tone to try to get the number of cases under control as he fights for re-election against Democrat Joe Biden, who leads in opinion polls ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

He urged young Americans to avoid crowded bars where the virus could spread.

“We are imploring young Americans to avoid packed bars and other crowded indoor gatherings. Be safe and be smart,” he said.

Trump again argued that the virus would disappear at some point, but most of his comments on Tuesday were largely a sober recognition of how bad the problem has become.

Trump sought to leave some optimism about scientific developments in vaccines and treatments even as he acknowledged the grim statistics at present.

When asked if the U.S. would cooperate with China on a vaccine, Trump, who several times called the virus “the China virus” during the news conference, said Washington would.

“Yeah, we’re willing to work with anybody that’s going to get us a good result. We’re very close to the vaccine. I think we’re going to have some very good results,” he said.

Nearly 142,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. (Reuters)

(Production: Arlene Eiras)

Brazil’s Bolsonaro confirms postive coronavirus diagnosis

UNTV News   •   July 8, 2020

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Tuesday (July 7) he tested positive for the novel coronavirus, adding in a television interview that he was in good health despite running a fever.

The right-wing populist, who has played down the severity of the virus which he has called a “little flu,” took the test on Monday after developing symptoms.

In the interview broadcast on state-run TV Brasil, Bolsonaro said he began feeling ill on Sunday (July 5) and has been taking hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug with unproven effectiveness against COVID-19.

“It started on Sunday (July 5) with a certain feeling of unwell that worsened during the day on Monday (July 6), with malaise, tiredness, a bit of muscle pain and a fever that reached 38 degrees in the late afternoon. I then thought that with these symptoms, and with the presidency’s medic (believing it to be) a possible COVID-19 infection, I did a CT scan at the armed forces hospital here in Brasilia. And the lungs were clear,” Bolsonaro said.

Brazil has the world’s second-largest outbreak behind the United States. Latin America’s largest country has more than 1.6 million confirmed cases and 65,000 COVID-19 deaths.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly defied local guidelines to wear a mask in public, even after a judge ordered him to do so in late June. Bolsonaro has also railed against social distancing rules supported by the World Health Organization.

Over the weekend, Bolsonaro attended several events and was in close contact with U.S. Ambassador Todd Chapman during July 4 celebrations. Pictures showed neither wearing a mask.

The U.S. Embassy in Brasilia said via Twitter on Monday (July 6) that the ambassador had lunch on July 4 with Bolsonaro, five ministers and the president’s son, Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro. The ambassador had no symptoms, but would undergo testing and is “taking precautions,” the embassy said. (REUTERS)

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