The Philippines is putting schools on a ‘health break’ as Covid cases rise.

MANILA — Teachers and students in the Philippine capital are being placed on what officials describe as a week-long ‘health break’ to recover from Covid or care for loved ones infected with the virus as the country experiences a record number of cases, fueled by the rapidly spreading Omicron variety.

And on Friday, the Ministry of Education took that step further by announcing that primary schools in five highly urbanized provinces south of the capital Manila were closed until the end of the month.

“The City of Manila does not declare classes at all levels, both private and public schools,” Mayor Francisco Domagoso said on Thursday, adding that teachers and students would have a week “to rest and hopefully recover” or to give them a breather. give when they care. for their loved ones.

“The parents’ level of anxiety for their children is increasing,” he said, and “so is the teacher.”

The measure may seem less of a relief to parents, who have already had to help their kids through one of the world’s longest spells of classroom shutdowns. Schools reopened in November in areas of the country where virus transfer rates have been slow after more than a year of virtual classes, but officials said the Omicron variant had forced a reconsideration of easing restrictions.

The country’s health ministry reported 37,027 new cases on Friday — a record high that officials blamed on the Omicron variant. The figure brings the total number of virus cases during the pandemic to 3.1 million, while nearly 53,000 people have died.

A recent survey by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, a group representing teachers and educators in the House of Representatives, found that 50 percent of its members in Manila reported being sick with flu-like symptoms while still teaching.

The government on Friday extended its coronavirus restrictions in Manila and other provinces until the end of the month. Those measures include capacity limits for restaurants, shopping malls, parks, sports venues, fitness studios, movie theaters, as well as exhibitions and social events.

“Since the Omicron variant was discovered in the country, the government has been closely monitoring Covid-19 cases as we recognize that given its characteristics, this variant would most likely lead to an increase in the number of Covid cases, just as the did. in other countries,” Karlo Nograles, a presidential spokesman, told a news conference.

“I think it’s clear that this variant is more transmissible,” he said, although he emphasized that because of the government’s aggressive vaccination push, infected people did not have serious disease.

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