By Dr. Rex Casiple
The Department of Education (DepEd) regarded the coronavirus as a serious concern that needs to be closely monitored and prevented to enter the school premises.
Coronavirus prevention in schools and in the community is a global concern. Many countries in the world announced blanket restrictions on people who have recently been in China. Other countries declared a state of emergency to fast-track efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus after cases of the virus were confirmed in their respective area of jurisdiction.
On Feb 10, 2020, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) issued a memorandum addressed to all presidents and heads of public and private higher education institutions (HEIs) in the country regarding the CHED Guidelines for the Prevention, Control, and Mitigation of the Spread of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). This is in response to the growing concerns for COVID-19. The guidelines were based on the issuances by the Department of Health (DOH) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
In the guidelines, HEIs are encouraged to only rely on and disseminate relevant information obtained from DOH and WHO through their official websites. Hence students, faculty, and staff in schools shall be updated and guided regularly through DOH and WHO’s websites.
HEIs are encouraged to create a trustworthy portal of information within their schools to ensure that official advisories from the WHO and DOH remain visible across multiple communication channels. Students, faculty, and staff are advised to stop reading, liking and sharing fake news and unverified and misleading information from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Messenger, and other social media platforms.
HEIs should advise everyone experiencing symptoms of an infection, such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath to contact immediately a doctor at the nearest medical center. Regular preventive actions to avoid exposure to the virus and prevent its spread are recommended.
To prevent the coronavirus from infecting schools, all HEIs are encouraged to establish screening procedures in line with the WHO guidelines or with the most recent recommendations from the medical experts.
As to athletics and other activities in schools, HEIs are enjoined to discuss and review any planned events with the participating schools and groups together with the DOH regional office whether to push through with or postpone the planned activity. This is to avoid organizing activities that draw a huge number of attendees; or for students, faculty and staff from attending or participating in crowded events that may cause the spread of the virus.
Per Presidential directive on coronavirus, travels to the People’s Republic of China and its special administrative regions are temporarily banned. School personnel and students who traveled abroad shall comply with the prescribed quarantine procedures of proper government authorities before returning to work or to school.
Travel to areas with confirmed coronavirus cases should be limited. In the case of students who cannot return to school as a result of the travel ban, HEIs are encouraged to provide appropriate accommodation and alternative learning arrangements with them.
Finally, more fake news and wrong information are circulating in social media nowadays. These caused panic, fear, and stigma to our students, faculty, and staff in schools.
To prevent these, HEIs are advised to have a central contact for COVID-19 to provide information from a health expert as well as to provide counsel to students, faculty, and staff in school who are experiencing anxiety over the coronavirus outbreak.
Prevention is better than cure.