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Manila suspends classes due to Omicron surge

Philippine authorities say schools, govt workers need to take a 'health break' as Covid-19 infections soar

Joseph Peter Calleja, Manila

Joseph Peter Calleja, Manila

Published: January 14, 2022 08:22 AM GMT

Updated: January 14, 2022 03:44 PM GMT

Manila suspends classes due to Omicron surge

Students attend a flag-raising ceremony before classes at Ricardo P. Cruz elementary school in Taguig city, suburban Manila, on Dec. 6, 2021. Schools in the city are now on a two-week 'health break' amid a surge in Omicron-related Covid-19 infections. (Photo: AFP)

Authorities in the Philippines are to shut down schools and colleges from Jan. 16-31 as part of what they call a “health break” in response to surging coronavirus infection levels.

People engaged in non-essential government work have also been told to stay at home amid a surge that saw almost 34,000 new cases on Jan. 13.

Manila City, headed by presidential candidate Mayor “Isko” Moreno Domagoso, was the first to issue the suspension order “to give students and workers time to rest.”

“There will be no classes or working, even online, to have a health break. Anxiety levels [due to Covid concerns] will be lessened,” Domagoso said on Jan. 13.

Domagoso’s order also resulted in the suspension of classes in major universities in Manila such as the Dominican-run University of Sto. Tomas and other Catholic schools.

Authorities elsewhere, such as in Bataan, near Manila, have followed suit.

It’s only humane to give all of us a break amid this outbreak, if only to allow us to recover

The Department of Education likewise suspended classes in elementary and other schools to protect teachers and staff from the surge.

It also ordered “necessary adjustments” to the school calendar to complete the mandatory number of education days in the year.

The move has been welcomed by teachers who thanked the authorities for considering not only the physical but the mental health of teachers during the pandemic.

“Many of our teachers have been sick since the new year started; like the rest of the country, it seems. Nearly every household we know has a sick member in it. Teachers and students alike are struggling to keep holding classes amid this Omicron-driven surge. Either we’re sick or we’re taking care of family members who are. It’s only humane to give all of us a break amid this outbreak, if only to allow us to recover,” said Raymond Basilio, secretary-general of a group called the Alliance of Concerned Teachers.

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Meanwhile, a diocese in the Philippines has left it to parishes to decide whether to shut church doors in the face of rising infections.

“Placing parish churches on lockdown should now become the responsibility of parish pastors and administrators … this should be done as a last resort and in response to grave threats to people’s health and safety,” said Novaliches Bishop Roberto Gaa on Jan. 12.

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