Class suspensions, work-from-home sought amid local coronavirus cases

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Officials have called for the suspension of classes and a work-from-home setup for employees after the Department of Health confirmed a local transmission of the coronavirus disease, officially known as COVID-19. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 7) — Officials have called for the suspension of classes and a work-from-home setup for employees after the Department of Health confirmed a local transmission of the coronavirus disease, officially known as COVID-19.

Navotas City Mayor Toby Tiangco said Saturday he is urging the Department of Education to pass all students and to call off remaining classes.

"The virus can be spread easily, especially in crowded places like schools. In light of this, I urge DepEd to automatically grant passing grades to all students so they do not have to attend classes anymore," said Tiangco in a statement. 

DepEd said it will wait for the advice of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases on further action. Education Secretary Leonor Briones is also asking guidance from DOH as two major events are ongoing until March 15 — the National Schools Press Conference and the National Festival of Talents.

According to the DepEd's calendar, the 2019-2020 school year formally ends on April 3. 

Meanwhile, Senator Labor Committee Chairman Joel Villanueva called on the Labor Department to urge employers to allow a work-from-home arrangement to avoid the spread of the disease.

"While it’s not for all workers because some need to be physically present in their places of work, telecommuting will also help minimize work disruption and stem the projected economic impact of the disease," said Villanueva in a statement.

One of the recently confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country is a 48-year-old Filipino man who works for consulting firm Deloitte Philippines in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. NEO Property Management closed down one of its buildings where Deloitte's office is located, for disinfection.

President Rodrigo Duterte has already agreed to declare a state of public health emergency amid the outbreak.

The country currently has six confirmed cases, including three Filipinos, two of which are local transmission cases. Earlier, three Chinese nationals were also confirmed to have the disease. From this group, one person died from the infection while the other two have already recovered and left the country.

Last month, Senator Risa Hontiveros also called for a work-from-home setup to protect commuters and other employees from possible exposure to the virus.

In March 2019, Duterte signed the Telecommuting Act which allows employees from the private sector to work from home. The law does not require employers to establish telecommuting arrangements, but stresses those must be offered to employees "on a voluntary basis."