MANILA — The Philippines' health chief said Sunday it was "not yet right" to suspend classes even after the country already reported 6 cases of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), including an incident of local transmission.
"Hindi pa tama iyon," Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said of Navotas City Mayor Toby Tiangco's suggestion to cancel classes from March 9 and give students automatic passing grades, as precautionary move in light of the spread of the respiratory disease.
Tiangco suspended Monday's classes in his city. Cainta and Taytay town in Rizal made the same announcement Saturday.
"Wala naman ebidensya na meron silang transmission. Diskarte na nila iyan (class suspension), desisyon na nila iyan at sila naman ang mananagot din sa kanilang mga desisyon," Duque said in a DZMM interview.
(There is no evidence that they have a transmission of the disease there. The class suspension is their strategy, their decision. They will be the ones accountable for their decisions.)
The country's first case of COVID-19 local transmission is a 62-year-old man who has no known travel history abroad and is a regular visitor of a prayer hall in San Juan, the health department earlier said.
The patient, who is the country's 5th COVID-19 case, is in "critical condition." He has other pre-existing health conditions like diabetes, hypertension, enlarged prostate, and kidney problem, said Duque.
The patient's wife, the latest to test positive for the virus, has "mild symptoms." Their children tested negative, the health minister added.
The Department of Health on Saturday raised the country's alert system for the new coronavirus to Code Red, Sub-level 1. This is a "preemptive call" for authorities and health workers to "prepare for possible increase in suspected and confirmed cases," Duque said.
The cancellation of classes and work will be recommended under Code Red, Sub-level 2, which will be prompted by the presence of "community transmission", where the source of COVID-19 cases can no longer be traced, Duque explained.