MANILA — Teachers and students in the Philippine capital are being placed on what officials describe as a weeklong “health break” to recover from Covid or care for loved ones infected with the virus as the country experiences a record number of cases fueled by the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.
And on Friday, the country’s Education Department expanded on that move by announcing that primary schools in five highly urbanized provinces south of the capital, Manila, were being closed until the end of the month.
“The city of Manila is declaring no classes at all levels, private and public school,” Mayor Francisco Domagoso said on Thursday, adding that teachers and students would have a week “to rest and hopefully recover” or give them a breather as they care for their loved ones.
“The parents’ anxiety level for their kids are increasing,” he said, and “this goes as well for the teacher.”
The measure may seem less like a breather for parents, who have already had to help their children through one of the world’s longest periods of classroom closures. Schools were reopened in November in the areas where virus transmission rates were low, but officials said that the Omicron variation had forced a reconsideration of the restrictions.
The country’s Health Department reported 37,027 new cases on Friday — a record high that officials blamed on the Omicron variant. This brings to 3.1 Million the total number virus cases during the pandemic. Nearly 53,000 people have also died.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers, which represents educators and teachers in the House of Representatives, conducted a survey that found that half of its members in Manila were suffering from flu-like symptoms while still teaching.
Friday’s coronavirus restrictions were extended by the government in Manila and other provinces to the end of the month. These measures include limits on capacity for restaurants, malls or parks, as they also apply to fitness studious, cinemas, and exhibitions. Children under 18 years old are prohibited from leaving their homes in many parts of the country.
“Since the Omicron variant was detected in the country, the government has been closely monitoring Covid-19 cases as we recognize that this variant, given its characteristics, would most likely lead to a rise in the number of Covid cases, just as it has in other countries,” Karlo Nograles, a presidential spokesman, told a news briefing.
“I think it is clear that this variant is more transmissible,” he said, though he stressed that because of the government’s aggressive vaccination drive, infected people were not experiencing severe illness.
Source: NY Times