Manila Mayor Orders COVID ‘Health Break’ for Teachers, Students

Basilio Sepe and Jojo Riñoza
Manila Mayor Orders COVID ‘Health Break’ for Teachers, Students School children observe social distancing as they attend classes at an elementary school in Makati City, Philippines, Dec. 6, 2021.
Basilio Sepe/BenarNews

Manila’s mayor on Thursday ordered that in-person and online classes be suspended in the capital city for six school days to give teachers and students time to rest and recover as the nation deals with a record-setting surge of COVID-19 infections.

Mayor Francisco Domagoso’s announcement that all classes would be canceled on Friday through Jan. 21 came as the Philippines logged 34,021 infections – a new one-day all-time high that officials have attributed to the Omicron variant. 

Domagoso’s Executive Order No. 07 was meant to be a breather for both teachers and students, whose families may be directly dealing with coronavirus. Earlier this week, a teachers alliance called for a two-week holiday.

“The City of Manila is declaring no classes at all levels, private and public schools. This will be called a health break in the City of Manila,” Domagoso told reporters. 

“So you have one week to rest and hopefully recover for the students who may be infected or their parents who may also be infected, as well as for the teachers and their families,” he said. 

“The parents’ anxiety level for their kids is increasing, this goes as well for the teachers,” he said. 

The nation has topped 3 million COVID-19 infections since the pandemic began, according to the health department. The death toll – with 82 on Thursday – is more than 52,700.

Teachers’ appeal

Domagoso’s announcement came after the Alliance of Concerned Teachers on Tuesday appealed for a health break. In Facebook posts, the alliance said its own studies showed that more than 50 percent of all teachers surveyed in Manila were exhibiting flu-like symptoms. 

“Teachers are humans, too. They are also exposed to the same health risks and are experiencing the same difficulties like everybody else,” said Sen. Risa Hontiveros, a member of a Senate committee overseeing reforms in education.

“A two-week break is the amount of time for full quarantine and to let them rest, recover or attend to their family’s needs,” she said Thursday. “The health and safety of both students and teachers should be the priority.”

Hontiveros also called on authorities to reconsider limited face-to-face classes. 

In November students began returning to selected schools after 20 months of contactless, virtual schooling. The Philippines was among the last in the world to lift education restrictions linked to the pandemic. 

Children ages 12 to 17 are eligible for vaccines which have not been approved for younger children.

Health officials have noted the Omicron variant has played a role in the increased infections. President Rodrigo Duterte recently ordered local authorities to make sure those who are not vaccinated remain in their homes to prevent further spread. 

On Wednesday, government officials said those without vaccines would be denied public transportation, triggering complaints from rights groups. Authorities also expanded an alert status that covers Metro Manila and surrounding areas to major urban centers across the country.


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