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Mass testing of learners, teachers for COVID-19 would help ensure safe reopening of classes —Gatchalian

Students, teachers, and other school personnel in the Philippines should be included in mass testing for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to help ensure a safe reopening of classes, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said Monday.

In a statement, Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on education, said these groups should first be cleared by local health officers or by any DOH-accredited medical facility as many infected patients remain asymptomatic.

He said the cost of the tests should be shouldered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) or the local government units.

There are over 27 million students and more than 800,000 teachers in the Philippines, according to the Department of Education (DepEd).

Disinfection of school facilities must take place too and new supplies of books and other equipment must be provided, the senator added.

Further, he said that regular classrooms shall also be limited to 20 people to enable physical distancing among students and teachers.

Learning facilities should also have enough supply of clean water, alcohol, sanitizers, and thermometers.

“Ang kaligtasan ng ating mga mag-aaral, mga guro, mga magulang, at mga kawani ng mga paaralan ang ating prayoridad sa pagpapasya kung kailan muling magbubukas ang klase ngayong taon," Gatchalian said.

"Mahalagang masiguro natin na may tamang paggabay ang ating mga paaralan at may sapat silang kakayahan na magpatupad ng mga polisiyang itataguyod ang ating kaligtasan mula sa COVID-19," he added.

Consultations with stakeholders are being conducted by the DepEd to determine the schedule of the opening of classes, considering the public health situation due to the novel coronavirus threats.

As of April 19, the Philippines recorded a total of 6,259 cases of COVID-19, with 409 deaths and 572 recoveries.

Based on the Department of Health's online tracker, over 52,000 individuals nationwide have undergone COVID-19 tests.—AOL, GMA News