South Cotabato suspends classes due to COVID-19 threat

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 16 March) — Classes in the entire South Cotabato province have been suspended beginning Monday to thwart the spread of the highly contagious and deadly novel coronavirus disease or COVID-19, Governor Reynaldo Tamayo, Jr. said.

In cancelling classes in all levels in both public and private schools, Tamayo cited President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent declaration of a state of public health emergency and the two positive COVID-19 cases in Mindanao.

“Students are vulnerable to transmission if classes will not be suspended,” he said in Executive Order 16 issued Sunday night.

South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo, Jr. speaks to the media regarding the province’s measures against COVID-19 at his office in Koronadal City on March 16, 2020. (Photo courtesy of the Provincial Information Office)

Mindanao’s first COVID-19 case, PH40 or Patient 40, a 54-year old male from Lanao del Sur, died on March 13. He sought refuge in Metro Manila during the 2017 Marawi siege and returned recently. He was initially confined at the Adventist Medical Center in Iligan City and then transferred to the Northern Mindanao Medical Center in Cagayan de Oro City where he expired.

The second confirmed COVID-19 patient, identified as PH130, is a 21-year-old Filipina who travelled from the United Kingdom to Manila with a layover in Doha, Qatar. She travelled from Manila to Davao City last February 29. She was admitted in isolation at the state-run Davao Regional Medical Center in Tagum City.

Tamayo said that classes will remain suspended until Duterte lifts the state of public health emergency he declared early last week following the confirmed local transmission of COVID-19 in Metro Manila.

Duterte raised last Thursday the COVID-19 alert level to Code Red Sub-level 2 and placed the entire Metro Manila under “community quarantine.”

The President ordered a halt on domestic travel to and from Manila, the suspension of classes and a ban on large gatherings.

Tamayo urged the school administrators and principals to comply with the order suspending the classes for the protection of the students.

This week was supposed to be for the final examination days of elementary and high school students in both private and public institutions for school year 2019-2020.

Dr. Rogelio Aturdido, South Cotabato health chief, said the province remains negative of COVID-19 as of Monday morning.

He urged those with recent travel history from overseas and Metro Manila to go on a 14-day home quarantine to help fight the spread of COVID-19.

While at home quarantine, the PUMs were advised to keep a distance of one meter or three feet away from household members and avoid the sharing of utensils and other personal belongings.