MANILA — Education Secretary Leonor Briones said Thursday she has given the Department of Health (DOH) the authority to decide which public schools in Metro Manila would be used as quarantine facilities for COVID-19 patients.
Briones said schools must be compliant with minimum health standards before they can be used as quarantine or isolation facilities for people who have been infected with or are suspected to have the virus.
"Sabi ko kay [Health] Secretary [Francisco] Duque, sila ang mag-decide kung aling schools ang appropriate because definitely hindi naman lahat ng schools namin puwede," Briones said at a Palace briefing.
(I told Secretary Duque it was up to them to decide which schools would be appropriate because definitely, not all our schools can be used.)
Schools that will be used must be far from communities, and have water and sanitation facilities and medicine supply, among others, she said.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque earlier bared that the education department allowed the use of half of public schools in Metro Manila as quarantine facilities. This, according to Briones, translated to 17,910 classrooms.
The figure on classrooms can still go up if private schools allow their facilities to be used as quarantine centers, said Briones.
Classrooms are expected to remain vacant until the end of the year as classes are set to resume through blended learning as a precautionary measure against COVID-19.
Asked how the conversion to quarantine facilities would affect the operations of the school, DepEd-National Capital Region director Malcolm Garma said he needs to know first the plans of the DOH and local government units.
Thirty-eight schools in the capital region are currently being used as isolation facilities, according to Garma, noting that the skeleton workforce that are physically reporting in these institutions have been following health standards.
The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines has reached 143,749 after the DOH reported on Wednesday 4,444 new cases.