President Rodrigo Duterte thumbed down the proposal of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to resume face-to-face classes so as not to endanger the lives of students and teachers, a Palace official said.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. bared that the President wanted to wait for the vaccine rollout, expected to start this month, before allowing in-person classes.

Clean but empty A personnel of the Manila Health Department disinfects classrooms at the General Maximino Hizon Elementary School on Feb. 22, 2021, hours before Malacañang announced President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision rejecting the holding of physical classes. Photo by Mike Alquinto

“Nag-desisyon na po ang Presidente. Wala pa rin po tayong face-to-face classes sa bansa (The President has decided. There will be no face-to-face classes),” he said in a news briefing.

“Ang sabi niya ayaw niyang malagay sa panganib o alanganin ang buhay ng ating mga mag-aaral at guro habang wala pa pong nababakunahan sa bansa (He said he does not want to endanger the lives of students and teachers while there is still no vaccine),” he added.

Roque said Duterte expressed hopes that face-to-face classes could resume in areas with low risk of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) in August.

“Sabi niya, may awa po ang Panginoon, baka naman po pagkatapos natin mailunsad ang ating vaccination program eh pupuwede na tayong mag-face-to-face sa Agusto, lalong lalo na mga lugar na mababa po ang Covid cases (He said God will have mercy, maybe we can hold face-to-face classes by August after the launch of our vaccination program),” he continued.

Last December, Duterte recalled his approval of limited face-to-face classes because of the detection of a new strain of Covid-19 that was more infectious in the United Kingdom.

On Sunday, the Department of Health said the country now has 62 United Kingdom variant cases.

Since the start of the pandemic, Duterte had said he would not allow face-to-face classes unless a vaccine becomes available.

Last week, the IATF-EID, through National Economic and Development Authority Acting Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua recommended to the President the conduct of the face-to-face classes.

Chua also recommended placing the entire country under the most lenient modified general community quarantine in a bid to revive the economy.