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President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he was glad of the cautious reopening of some Metro Manila schools, after a nearly 2-year suspension of face-to-face classes.
Wearing face masks and sitting at desks fitted with plastic screens, some 2,000 children returned at 28 schools in the National Capital Region as part of a trial of in-person classes. The government aims to reopen all schools in January against the backdrop of mass vaccination drives and falling virus cases.
"I’m glad that they have thought of this. Just dahan-dahan lang, ‘wag masyadong mabilis kasi just the better part of prudence," Duterte said in a televised national address.
(I’m glad that they have thought of this, just slowly, not too fast, just the better part of prudence.)
He told students and teachers excluded from the program: "Do not be dismayed kung hindi sa inyo muna because these are all experimental and pilot projects."
(Do not be dismayed if it's not in your area for now because these are all experimental and pilot projects.)
"Doon muna titingnan natin kasi andoon lahat ng resources ng government, and iyong mga official andoon at makita agad, and they keep posted on what is happening," continued Duterte.
(We will examine it there because all government resources are there, the officials are also there and can immediately see, and they can be kept posted on what is happening.)
The reopening of the schools in the capital region is an expansion of a trial of 100 schools in lower-risk areas that started last month. Precautions remain for students, however, such as class sizes capped at 15 to avoid overcrowding.
The Philippines, which has has recorded 2.84 million COVID-19 cases and 49,499 deaths in total, is among the last countries globally to reopen schools.
Daily infections have fallen sharply to below 1,000 since Nov. 24, from a peak of over 20,000 in September, paving the way for a wider economic reopening.
The Philippines last week held a 3-day mass vaccination drive to boost its vaccine roll out, which has been slower than many neighbors. As of Dec. 2, around 34 percent of its 109 million people had been fully immunized. — With a report from Eloisa Lopez and Jay Ereño, Reuters