Clarify guidelines on face-to-face classes, gov’t told

ADVOCATES ON Monday renewed their call for the government to issue clear ventilation guidelines for schools and public transportation before full face-to-face classes start next month amid a coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement, Aral Pilipinas also urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to disclose infection data in the country’s schools.

The  group made the call after the Philippines posted its first cases of the highly contagious XBB Omicron subvariant and XBC variant of the coronavirus.

A DepEd order on health protocols for schools implementing physical classes lacks clear guidelines on ventilation, which is needed to protect students from the virus, said Abbey Pangilinan, convenor of Aral Pilipinas.

“There’s still a need for clearer policies specific to ventilation so teachers or principals could become more equipped to implement them in their respective schools,” she told a virtual news briefing.

Schools should “ensure adequate ventilation in enclosed and shared spaces,” according to the DepEd order. Schools can also open windows and doors and use ventilation fans near windows to increase air flow and push air outside.

Aral Pilipinas has been lobbying for the use of an evidence-based assessment tool that can help schools determine if a classroom is poorly or well-ventilated based on its carbon dioxide level.

The tool called “Safe Schools Calculator” was developed by wind engineer Joshua C. Agar, who is also part of the coalition.

Users must indicate the classroom dimensions, available ventilation such as electric fans and windows, number of occupants and the class duration, Aral Pilipinas said in a previous statement.  The tool had been presented to DepEd, which has yet to give its feedback.

The Philippines posted 11,995 coronavirus infections in the past week, with a daily average of 1,714 cases, according to health authorities.

The daily average from Oct. 17 to 23 was 22% lower than a week earlier, the Department of Health (DoH) said in a bulletin.  Of the new cases, four were severe and critical, it added.

DoH said 272 new deaths had been verified in the past week, 26 of which occurred from Oct. 10 to 23.

The agency said 581 intensive care unit (ICU) beds had been used as of Oct. 23, while 5,666 of 21,474 non-ICU beds were occupied. There were 650 severe and critical admissions, it added.

The Philippines has fully vaccinated 73.48 million people, DoH said. It added that 20.47 million people have received booster shots. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza