DepEd eyes ‘mass testing’ in schools

Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 17 2020 08:29 PM | Updated as of May 18 2020 08:39 AM

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MANILA – The Department of Education (DepEd) said Sunday it was studying the cost of conducting mass testing in schools to help ensure the safety of students, teachers and non-teaching personnel from the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“Pinag-aaralan namin kung magkano ito, [kung] kaya ba,” Education Undersecretary Revsee Escobedo told Teleradyo.

(We are studying how much testing would cost and if we can afford it.)

Through mass testing, Escobedo said, officials would have more confidence that it would be safe for students and other personnel to physically return to schools.

Escobedo pointed out, however, that tests may be costly as people who go back and forth between schools and their homes would have to take retests since they may acquire the virus from their community.

“Halimbawa, negative ka sa araw na ito, uuwi ka sa bahay at komunidad, pagbalik mo ite-test ka ulit kasi baka ‘yong virus hindi mo ma-acquire sa school… kundi nandoon sa bahay at komunidad,” he explained.

(For example, you turned out negative today, then you go home to your community, when you get back to school, you have to take the test again because you may not have gotten it from the school… but you may get it from home or your community.)

Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan later clarified on Twitter that there would “be a testing protocol/component in Health Standards, but 'mass testing' needs to be defined very carefully."

"It might be misinterpreted as testing all, which may be neither affordable nor needed," he said. 

The DepEd earlier said schools were prohibited from holding face-to-face learning, which involves physical interaction between the teacher and students, until August 24, the formal opening of the school year.

From August 24, face-to-face learning, which also involves the traditional in-person classes, will only be allowed based on the risk assessment of local officials and in compliance with minimum health standards.

The DepEd also required class sizes to be reduced to only 15 to 20 learners to comply with social distancing measures.

As of Sunday, the Philippines recorded 12,513 COVID-19 cases, with 2,635 recoveries and 824 deaths.