The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday said it is not directly aware of the reason behind some schools opting to suspend classes because of a new coronavirus.
“In so far as DOH is concerned, we’re not aware of the reasons. There really is no need as of now,” said Health Secretary Francisco Duque during a press conference at Malacanang.
As of Monday morning, at least 6 private schools, some of them known Chinese schools, announced the suspension of classes in relation to the novel coronavirus that has originated from China.
Duque said the suspension of classes are also not included in the department’s guidelines for the novel coronavirus, which is a new strain of coronavirus not previously identified in humans. It belongs to a large family of viruses that includes the common cold but also severe illnesses such as the MERS-CoV and SARS CoV.
“It’s really up to them,” he said, adding that they will still coordinate with the schools. “There has been no communication coming from WHO with regard to advisory that is related to that.”
Education Secretary Leonor Briones, who was also at the press conference, explained that private schools have a "greater degree of autonomy" and can suspend their classes if they want to.
However, she said they will have to conduct make-up classes so the students will have enough face-to-face interactions with their teachers.
Briones said she was told that “The reason that has been given (for the suspensions) is that in these schools a number of students faculty members have been traveling to China.”
“They suspect they have a degree of exposure,” she said. “We will ask them to coordinate with the Department of Health.”
Duque allayed fears on Monday, saying that while there are 11 patients who are being observed, the Philippines has no confirmed case of novel coronavirus. Around the world, there are 2,014 cases already but he said fatality rate is low at 2.7 percent only.