Senate minority leader backs policy on face-to-face classes

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PHYSICAL classes should continue despite the detection of new coronavirus variants in the country, the Senate minority leader said on Thursday, noting that authorities should focus on risk mitigation measures instead of compromising the merits of in-person learning for school children.

“If we do not allow our children to be educated today and learn, we worry for their future when they become adults, (and) it is their time to run our society,” Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Martin D. Pimentel III told reporters in a Viber message on Thursday. 

“Because for sure, there will also be pandemics and other health emergencies during their time,” he said. “Would they then have been equipped with the needed skills and training and critical scientific thinking to be able to deal with their own societal problems and challenges?”

The Department of Education on Wednesday said there are no changes on the order for a full return to physical classes by November in public schools, except those exempted by local officials. 

Private schools have the option to continue blended learning.

The Department of Health on Tuesday said it had detected 81 cases of the new Omicron XBB subvariant and 193 cases of the XBC variant, which is said to be a recombinant of the Delta and BA.2 variants. 

Rontgene M. Solante, a member of the Health department’s technical advisory group, has said that infections are expected to increase in the coming weeks. 

“That’s already a sign that if you have a low booster uptake, there is a higher risk that cases may increase, and mutated strains may appear,” he said. 

On the other hand, Mr. Pimentel argued that “there are more than 3,000 viruses out there. We cannot live to be afraid of all of them.” 

“We have to live with them, especially coronaviruses since these have been with humans, mammals and other animals since time immemorial,” he added. 

The senator said health risks in schools could be reduced through “practical solutions” such as ensuring proper ventilation and air circulation in classrooms and avoid creating situations that will draw big crowds. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan