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

Marje Pelayo   •   March 10, 2020   •   1384

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)

COVID confirmatory testing should be reserved for symptomatic, vulnerable people – WHO exec

Robie de Guzman   •   January 12, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – Targeted testing is a better use of the country’s resources on RT-PCR test, an official from the World Health Organization (WHO) said, following calls for mass testing amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

With the exponential increase in cases in the country, WHO representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said that it would be more prudent “to reserve the testing capacity to test symptomatic people, especially symptomatic elderly and vulnerable people.”

“I think targeted testing is a better use of the resources on RT-PCR test and the hypothesis that if you have a confirmed case in a household and other people are asymptomatic, there is no need to confirm testing, just need to assume that it’s Omicron,” he said during a public briefing.

“On the other hand, it’s also not very useful in testing other asymptomatic people in a household once you have confirmed Omicron case in a household because of the higher transmissibility. They are very likely to get infected or would have already infected,” he added.

Abeyasinghe said that by testing asymptomatic people and the close contacts of COVID positive persons, “we are artificially driving up the positivity rate.”

“It would be far better to use the testing capacity to understand where is the transmission and use that to suppress further transmissions,” he added.

The current surge in the Philippines is believed to be driven by Omicron and Delta variants.

The Philippines on Wednesday logged 32,246 cases, 28,007 cases on Tuesday, and 33,169 last Monday.

But despite the surging cases, Abeyasinghe believes there is no need yet to escalate the alert levels being implemented.

The Philippines’ healthcare system can also manage until about January 27 or 28 if the current COVID-19 trends are maintained, he added.

“We are looking closely at the current Alert Level 3… we are seeing a significant reduction in mobility and if yesterday’s reduction in number is an indication maybe the current alert levels are adequate,” Abeyasinghe said.

“That red line analysis that we have done projects that we can manage the health systems to about the 27/28 of January. Given the trends up to yesterday, with yesterday’s decline, we may be even to manage beyond that,” he added.

Abeyasinghe said alert levels should only be increased if there are signs that the healthcare system is being overwhelmed.

“We are very conscious that we will need to increase those alert levels and increase the restrictions only if we see signs of the healthcare system being overwhelmed. Right now, we don’t see that,” he said.

Rather than further tightening restrictions, he urged the public to continue adhering to public health protocols, and immediately isolate themselves if they have symptoms to reduce the risk of transmission. Vaccination efforts should also be increased to protect people from hospitalization and severe diseases.

15 PSG personnel infected with COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   January 6, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – At least 15 members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) have tested positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19), its chief, Colonel Randolph Cabangbang said Thursday.

In a statement, Cabangbang said these were those who came from their holiday break.

They were found infected with the virus after undergoing the mandatory quarantine for seven days and RT-PCR tests.

Cabangbang said those who tested positive were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and are asymptomatic.

He also assured these members are not, in any way, detailed with the president.

Cabangbang said these members are being taken care of by the PSG Task Force COVID-19, in accordance with government protocols.

“PSG is strictly adhering to the highest standards of performing its primary mandate, that is, to protect the Commander-in-Chief, our beloved President Rodrigo Roa Duterte,” he said.

“Your PSG assures the public that we are fit and able to protect the President so he can continue his mandate to serve this nation,” he added.

Panibagong COVID-19 surge pinangangambahan dahil sa tumataas na namang kaso sa bansa — OCTA

Robie de Guzman   •   December 29, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Nagpahayag ng pagkabahala ang independent pandemic monitoring OCTA Research Team sa biglang pagbilis ng hawaan ng COVID-19 sa bansa.

Ayon kay OCTA Research fellow Guido David, maaaring nagsisimula na ang panibagong surge dahil hindi lang bahagya ang naobserbahan nilang pagtaas ng kaso sa bansa.

“It’s already happening and the surge is already starting… Pati ako nagugulat ako sa sobrang bilis. It’s not a slight uptick anymore,” ani David.

Sa ulat ng OCTA, pumalo sa mahigit 5% ang naitalang positivity rate ng National Capital Region (NCR) nito lamang Disyembre 27, na lagpas sa pamantayan ng World Health Organization (WHO).

Ibig sabihin, marami ang nagpositibo sa COVID-19 sa loob lamang ng isang araw.

Tumaas rin sa mahigit 1% ang naitatalang reproduction number o bilis ng hawaan sa NCR.

“A few days ago slight uptick, in fact, last week wala pa naman it was still low numbers last week, low positivity rate. Less than 1% low reproduction number. Ang bilis nga madagdagan,” ani David.

“I believe this is something now of a serious concern na definitely we should prepare for,” dagdag pa niya.

Nitong nakalipas na linggo, naglalaro lang sa mahigit 300 ang average na COVID-19 cases sa Pilipinas pero sa pagtaya ng OCTA, posibleng tumaas ito sa 1,000 ngayong araw.

Sa pinakauling bulletin ng Department of Health, 889 ang bagong kaso ng COVID-19 sa bansa.

Pinangangambahang ma-doble pa ito bago sumapit ang Disyembre 31 at pagpasok ng Enero 2022 ayon sa OCTA.

“By the New Year, before the New Year nasa 2,000 na iyan… by next week baka nasa 4,000 na iyan,” ani David.

“May error range ang mga iyan but I am just giving a ball part figure na what we’re seeing could be a quick increase in the number of cases,” dagdag pa niya.

Naniniwala ang OCTA Research na hindi na lang ang mobility o paggalaw ng tao ngayong holiday season ang sanhi ng pagtaas ng kaso sa bansa dahil posibleng may undetected cases na ng Omicron variant kaya mabilis ang hawaan

“The numbers that we see today are most likely from December 26 that’s already after Christmas so mababa na ang mobility compared to before Christmas…
It doesn’t seem to be mobility-driven and it could be something more than that,” ani David.

“Well, looking right now mas mabilis ito. Iyong reproduction number natin is already at 1 if we look at the City of Manila the reproduction number that we have is 1.89 already,” dagdag pa niya.

Panawagan ng OCTA sa mga otoridad, paigtingin pa ang contact tracing sa mga rehiyon at magpabakuna na ang mga hanggang ngayon ay hindi pa rin nakakatanggap ng kahit first dose

Dapat ding magpa-booster shot na ang mga maaari nang tumanggap nito bilang paghahanda na rin sa posibleng pagtama ng panibagong surge sa bansa dulot ng Omicron variant.

Samantala, sa isang mensahe ay sinabi ni DOH spokesperson Usec. Maria Rosario Vergeire na talagang inaasahan ang pagtaas ng kaso ngayong holiday season nguni’t wala pang katiyakan kung ito ay sanhi ng Omicron variant.

Nanawagan din ang DOH sa mga LGU na tiyaking nasusunod ang mga safety at health protocols kontra COVID-19 at bawa’t Pilipinong eligible na ay dapat may bakuna na kontra coronavirus disease. (mula sa ulat ni Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

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