The Commission of Higher Education (CHEd) on Tuesday announced that the second phase of the gradual resumption of limited face-to-face (F2F) classes in Alert Level 3 areas would start on Jan. 31, although participation remained not mandatory.

CHEd chairman Prospero de Vera III also announced that higher education institutions (HEIs) in areas under Alert Level 2 “may start limited F2F classes anytime.”

Application to CHEd is not a requirement for the conduct of limited in-person classes, de Vera said.

“HEIs intending to hold limited (F2F) classes during the Covid-19 pandemic must be willing to assume the responsibilities for the reopening of their campuses based on their capability to comply with the health and safety protocols, to retrofit their facilities and to get the support of their stakeholders,” the CHEd chairman said in an advisory.

De Vera reported in December 2021 that more than 87.1 percent of HEI personnel and nearly 60 percent of college students had been vaccinated against Covid-19.

The second phase of the implementation of the limited F2F classes was carried out in accordance with Resolution No.148-G of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The IATF resolution was released in November 2021, way before the detection of the highly transmissible Omicron Covid-19 variant in the country.

Alert Level 3 is raised in 19 areas in the country, including Metro Manila, until Jan. 15.

Several universities in the capital region, including the University of Santo Tomas, De La Salle University and Ateneo de Manila University, have suspended classes due to the surging Covid-19 cases. John Ezekiel J. Hirro