Students in malls, cinemas during COVID-19 class suspensions to be sent home, DILG says

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Teachers have been instructed to give Metro Manila students several assignments to sustain learning at home for the rest of the week, the Department of Education says.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 10) — Students should think twice before using the five-day class suspension in Metro Manila over the coronavirus outbreak for leisure and recreation.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said students caught hanging out in malls, cinemas, and other public spaces without a parent or guardian will be told to go home.

"Sisitahin ang mga bata na hindi accompanied ng kanilang mga magulang... The purpose of the suspension of classes is to make sure our children stay at home," Año told reporters on Tuesday, adding they should be doing their homework.

[Translation: We will flag children seen in public who are not accompanied by their parents.] 

The Department of the Interior and Local Government said it has instructed mayors, barangay officials, and policemen to keep children and teenagers away from crowded places, assigning them as "truant officers". "Ia-advise silang umuwi. Kung kinakailangang ihatid sila ng pulis, ihahatid sila ng pulis," Año added.

[Translation: They will be told to go home. If the police need to accompany them, they will.]

The Cabinet official said while the youth can be resistant to COVID-19 with strong immunity, they could be carriers of the virus and infect their relatives — especially their grandparents — upon arriving home if they came in contact with in infected person.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters there's "nothing wrong" with the DILG plan to require students to go home or be ushered by the police away from malls or big crowds.

"In this state of public health emergency, certain personal or individual freedoms, like the freedom to travel or just even move around, may have to give way to societal interest or the common good," Guevarra said. "Students found in malls will not be arrested, they will simply be asked to go home and stay put to avoid possible infection and transmission of the virus."

Assignments required

Teachers in Metro Manila schools have been told to give take-home assignments to keep students busy amid class suspensions meant to contain the novel coronavirus, the Department of Education said.

"Required sila (teachers) na magbigay ng mga assignment sa mga estudyante to allow the process of learning to proceed at home," Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan told CNN Philippines' Newsroom Ngayon on Tuesday.

[Translation: They (teachers) are required to give assignments to students. ]

"This is really a challenging circumstance, but we understand the public health situation that we are trying to address at this point," he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte announced Monday night that classes in Metro Manila will be suspended until Saturday, March 14 to help contain the spread of the COVID-19 disease, with local transmissions reported in the region. As of now, 21 of the 24 confirmed cases are in the country, with a number of them gettting infected with the disease in the Philippines.

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Malaluan noted that giving take-home tasks is also a way to keep kids away from public places. "Itong intervention na ito [This intervention] of suspension of classes can only be effective if the students will remain at home and will not go to places that exposes them to big crowds," he said.

Apart from frequent and thorough handwashing, experts said "social distancing" — or maintaining a one-meter distance from other people — is a way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

DepEd's executive committee will be meeting on Tuesday to assess if schools will need additional class days to catch up with face-to-face lectures. The school year is set to end Friday, April 3, but the rules require 203 school days, Malaluan said. Classes have also been suspended for several days in January due to Taal volcano's eruption.

READ: How to protect yourself from coronavirus

He added that there could be changes to graduation ceremonies, as this event also attracts large crowds and involves repeated handshaking when a school official gives out diplomas and medals.