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Children were about to return to school due to the closure of classes for more than 25 million primary and secondary students in March, as the incident of contagion occurred in the Philippines in March.
In a speech aired late on Monday, Duterte said the risk was too great, even though it had withdrawn students academically.
“It is useless to talk about opening classes until I am sure they are really safe,” the president said.
“For me, first vaccine. If the vaccine is already there, it’s okay,” he said. “If there are no graduates, then so be it.”
Although researchers have launched an unprecedented global effort to quickly develop a vaccine, it is unclear when a viable candidate will be proven and distributed on a large scale.
The public school normally runs in the Philippines from June to April, but authorities pushed the start as cases escalated and a tight lockdown halted most of the country.
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To reduce class congestion, the Ministry of Education had already announced a mix of distance education measures, including online classes, that would be used for the upcoming school year.
Millions of people in the Philippines live in deep poverty and do not have access to computers at home, which will be important for the feasibility of online classes.
The epidemic has kept children around the world at home for months, but individual classes have resumed in countries including South Korea and France.
The Philippines’ coronavirus case count exceeded 14,300 on Monday, including 873 deaths.
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