Department of Health (DOH) officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said Tuesday that there is no reason to delay or stop the opening of classes on Aug. 22 despite the detection of the country’s first case of monkeypox.
Vergeire, in a press briefing, said they have put up measures to ensure the safety of the children who are set to go back to face-to-face classes.
Along with the Department of Education (DepEd), she said they will heighten the health screening both among students and teachers.
“One of the most important measures is the screening of children and teachers when they go to school. We will be working with the Department of Education on this,” she said in Filipino. “No one should be able to go to school with symptoms or if they already have lesions, we should be able to see them right away.”
Vergeire made the remark after DepEd spokesman Michael Poa said on Monday that they will defer to the guidelines that the DOH will issue on monkeypox in relation to the resumption of classes three weeks from now.
The DOH announced last Friday that the Philippines recorded its first case of monkeypox in a 31-year-old patient who arrived from abroad on July 19. He tested positive for the virus on Thursday, July 28.
On July 23, the World Health Organization declared monkeypox as a “public health emergency of international concern”—the highest alarm it can sound.
At a Palace briefing on Tuesday, Poa said the opening of School Year 2022 to 2023 will push through, adding that 13.1 million students have already enrolled.
As of 7 a.m. on Tuesday, DepEd’s data showed that a total of 13,152,065 learners have registered for the upcoming academic year.
Of this number, 6,118,690 students are from elementary levels, 4,221,840 from junior high school, 1,940,621 from senior high school, and 870,914 from kindergarten.
Poa said the turnout of the ongoing enrollment this school year is “significantly higher” than that of the previous year.
“It does appear from the trend that our learners are excited to go back to in-person classes,” he added.
Poa said they are coordinating with the DOH to roll out a mobile COVID-19 vaccination in schools and organize counseling sessions among unvaccinated learners.
Also on Tuesday, Senators Chrisopher Go and Robin Padilla filed a resolution directing the health and demography committee to conduct an inquiry on the preparedness of the country to contain and suppress monkeypox.
The probe, they said, would prevent the overburdening of the health care system.
Go, who was reelected as chair of the Senate committee on health and demography, and Padilla emphasized in their resolution the urgent need to evaluate the government’s preparedness to effectively suppress the spread of monkeypox, especially as the country is still trying to recover from the adverse impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Both senators stressed that it is the duty of Congress to formulate institutional policies and measures to address public health emergencies.
“The entry of COVID-19 in the country has been an eye-opener. We saw how important it is to boost our healthcare system. There are so may things that should be fixed. We hope that, guided by good science, we know better how to handle monkeypox this time,” Go said
Meanwhile, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that monkeypox can spread to anyone through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact, such as direct contact with monkeypox rash, scabs, or body fluids from a person with monkeypox.
The virus can also be transmitted through touching objects, fabrics, and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox, and contact with respiratory secretions.