Press Release
March 6, 2020

Gatchalian: graduation rites should be COVID-19-free

As graduation season kicks off this month, Senator Win Gatchalian urges the Department of Education's (DepEd) task force on the novel coronavirus to ensure schools' strict adherence to health authorities' safety recommendations on public gatherings.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts, and Culture made this call amid growing global concern on the COVID-19, which has already infected 87,137 people in 59 countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) already upgraded its global risk assessment of COVID-19 to "very high," its top level of risk assessment in terms of spread and impact.

According to Gatchalian, this should prompt DepEd to ensure that protocols are in place before and during graduation and moving-up ceremonies. Citing WHO's planning recommendations for mass gatherings, Gatchalian emphasized the importance of the schools' constant coordination with local health officials, starting with the undertaking of comprehensive risk assessments.

Based on the WHO guidelines, these assessments should guide the formulation of action plans to mitigate identified risks, the handling of which should be clearly delegated to event organizers and local health care providers. Gatchalian reiterated the importance of information dissemination, which should give advice on proper hygiene, detecting symptoms, and access to local health care, among others.

Systems to identify illness indicators among the participants of these ceremonies should also be in place. Should participants to the rites display COVID-19-like symptoms, isolation areas or transportation to treatment facilities should be immediately available, the lawmaker added.

"Isang masayang okasyon ang pagtatapos ng ating mga mag-aaral at hindi natin dapat hayaang masira ito ng panganib at pangambang dulot ng COVID-19. Kaya naman sa ating paghahanda, mahalagang gawin natin ang lahat ng posibleng hakbang upang masiguro ang kaligtasan ng ating mga mag-aaral, mga guro, ilan pang kinatawan ng mga eskwelahan, at mga magulang," said Gatchalian.

Based on the Department of Health's COVID-19 case tracker as of March 2, 638 individuals in the Philippines have been tagged as "persons under investigation (PUI)." Among these PUIs, three are confirmed cases, 43 are currently admitted, and 592 have been discharged.

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