Senator Gatchalian urges DepEd: Suspend graduation rites to contain COVID-19 spread

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Following the declaration of a state of public health emergency in the country over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Senator Win Gatchalian has urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to suspend graduation rites, including Preschool graduations and moving-up ceremonies nationwide.

Gatchalian said Daycare graduation rites should likewise be suspended.

Gatchalian earlier cautioned DepEd to follow recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO) on holding public gatherings like graduation rites but he said the virus’ local transmissions now call for the suspension of the upcoming ceremonies.

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), who usually are parents or relatives of the graduates, tend to show up in graduation rites and this might compromise the safety of students, teachers, and all school personnel present in the occasion.

Gatchalian also called for the cancellation of other activities or non-academic projects such as field trips, film showing, and other events imposed by some schools as a requirement for graduation or completion.

For this year, the DepEd has stated that graduation should not be earlier than March 30, 2020, but not later than April 3, 2020.

The Department of Health (DOH) has raised the COVID-19 Alert System to Code Red sublevel 1, following the local transmission and a possibility of community transmission.

The country now has ten cases of COVID-19, with three cases of local transmission recorded.

According to the DOH, the response to this stage includes intensified contact tracing, home quarantine for close contacts of COVID-19-positive patients, enhanced Severe Acute Respiratory Illness surveillance, and activation of laboratories outside the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM). Community-level quarantine or lockdown, including the suspension of work and classes, will be implemented at the “sustained community transmission” stage, when the links in the increasing number of local cases cannot be established.

“Huwag na nating hintayin pang magkaroon ng kumpirmadog kaso sa ating mga mag-aaral, mga magulang, guro, at iba pang mga kawani sa paaralan. Upang masiguro natin ang kanilang kaligtasan, mainam na ipagpaliban muna natin ang mga seremonya ng pagtatapos, pati na rin ang mga malalaking pagtitipon na maaaring magdulot ng mas malaking panganib”, said Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.

Gatchalian also urged  DepEd to increase its vigilance and readiness in terms of monitoring persons at risk and providing timely interventions for those who display COVID-19-like symptoms, including access to isolation and treatment facilities.

All these steps, Gatchalian said, should be done in close coordination with local health officials and health care providers while classes still remain./Stacy Ang 

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