NEDA wants pilot for face-to-face classes to start this August

THE NATIONAL Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) wants the government to pilot face-to-face classes in August to help the economy recover from a coronavirus pandemic.

The government should also gradually relax quarantines to boost economic activities, NEDA Undersecretary Mercedita A. Sombilla told an online forum on Thursday.

“Containing the spread of the virus will enable us to shift to a modified general community quarantine, with lockdowns localized only to specific areas where needed,” she said.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte locked down the entire Luzon island in March last year, shutting schools and public transportation to contain the pandemic. The lockdown has since been eased but physical classes remain banned.

NEDA Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua early this month said face-to-face classes should be allowed again because remote learning has affected the quality of education. He had warned about the long-term impact of the pandemic on the economy.

Ms. Sombilla said they expect the economy to go back to pre-crisis levels by the middle of next year if lockdown restrictions are eased, more businesses are allowed to operate and more people get vaccinated.

Economic managers expect economic output to grow by 6-7% this year and by 7-9% in 2022.

Recovery programs such as the second stimulus package, enforcement of a law that lowered the corporate income tax and streamlined incentives and the passage of other key economic bills are crucial to growth, Ms. Sombilla said.

The Commission on Higher Education has allowed some universities and colleges to hold limited face-to-face classes in the second semester of the current school year for third and fourth year medical students.

Several lawmakers in March filed a resolution asking the government to begin the pilot tests for face-to-face classes in 1,065 schools in areas with a low infection rate. — Beatrice M. Laforga