Although President Duterte mentioned the word “lockdown” in his address Thursday night, the term itself is actually not in the Resolution of the Inter-agency Task Force. One recommended measure that concerns AUP students currently wanting to go home is that “land, domestic air, and domestic sea travel to and from Metro Manila shall be suspended” beginning March 15 until April 12. However, there remains a lot of uncertainty because “mass public transports… shall [still] continue in operation”, and that the Department of Transportation will issue guidelines about ‘social distancing’.” Will travel that merely “goes through” Metro Manila and not terminate there be allowed?
Within an hour after the president’s address, a spokesperson from the road sector of the Department of Transportation announced that they have yet to meet with interior and health officials on Friday to define the rules of the quarantine in Metro Manila. At this point, then, less than 24 hours after the national address, it behooves to remain calm and make wise decisions, especially those related to the transportation issues.
Two main purposes have to be considered in making a decision. The first is for our students to be spared from the COVID-19 infection. The second is for them to graduate or finish their enrolled courses this semester. The University has already arranged for blended learning through the internet, so this is possible. Several perspectives related to these two purposes have to be taken into account as parents and guardians make decisions about students going home.
1. Is their home currently in a location clear of COVID-19 transmission? If there are outbreaks in the location already, we advise parents to ensure that their child and their family remain in quarantine. Please be aware that once the suspension of classes is lifted, if the student returns from a location with COVID-19 patients, they may be quarantined before the school can allow them to return to their classes or residences.
2. When the student returns home, will they have internet access to continue studying during the suspension period? If there is none, then the student will lose the semester’s credits. Worse, candidates for graduation may not be able to complete their requirements and be delayed for another year.
3. It is only in Metro Manila that classes are suspended for a month and only there is a “community quarantine” imposed. For Cavite, the suspension of classes will end by tomorrow, and neither is the province under quarantine. It is possible that classes will resume by Monday, especially that the Inter-agency Task Force had already stipulated the conditions for imposing class suspensions and quarantines. Hopefully the spread of the virus will not escalate in our area.
4. The main problem now is the fear that in the situation in our area worsens, students may not be able to go home because they cannot pass through Metro Manila. On this issue, we have to wait for the guidelines from the Department of Transportation. Hopefully we can get sone clarity today.
It is in the best interest of the University and the students’ families that they return home because the chances of a successful quarantine are greater. However, in the next few hours, the following guidelines will be implemented for students who want to go home.
1. Students who will be picked up by their parents can immediately go home. If parents come in their cars, students can be picked up near the dorms. If the parents come and bring them home through public transport, students can still leave the campus because they are with their parents who can make decisions on the safety of the trip home.
2. If the students want to go home on their own, the residence deans will have to verify the route, considering whether the way home is safe from possible contamination and whether the student is taking necessary precautions. It may take time before the student in this situation to be given a pass to leave the campus.
3. Upon return to the campus, all returning students will have to be screened and required to submit a travel record. And those returning from places where there are positive COVID-19 cases will have to be quarantined for 14 days. For now we do not even have the facility to quarantine in the campus returning students from contaminated areas.
If the parents or guardians decide that their child remains on campus, the University wants to give the assurance that the campus preventive measures already in effect will be maintained and that additional strategies are being taken.
Additional guidelines and developments will be released later today. Let us continue to pray that the Lord will protect our children, the University, and our communities from the spread of the virus.